THE Drumtochty farmers complained a good
deal of hard times, and in the last few years their profits had undoubtedly
been small; yet they were careful, hardworking men, and the majority of
them had money
laid aside. Most or
the farmhouses stood some distance from the main
roads, at the end of a lane. I naturally expected, when
I followed up one of these lanes, that it would lead me
to the front door of the house, but the farm buildings
were not arranged on the American plan. The houses
turned their backs on the public approaches, just as
the mansions of the gentry do, and it was often a
puzzle to find the front entrance at all.
I came to know many of the farmers, and among them one
called "Hillocks," who was especially friendly, and at whose house I was a
frequent visitor. He was in reality a Mr. Crockett, but Hillocks was the
name of his farm, and locally that was always his title. It was the same on
the other farms of the glen — Ballandee, Clashiegar, Drumachar, Shilligan,
etc., — their names and the names of their owners were identical to the
neighbors, and when there was a change of tenants the new occupant was known
by the old farm name, quite regardless of his own.
Hillocks was a good farmer, and he was now very
well-to-do, or, as the Scotch say, "had his pocket full o' bawbees "
(halfpence). He was elderly and bent, and wore a bushy fringe of gray beard
standing out about his face, and had a stiff jungle of hair, that seemed to
have had no very intimate acquaintance with a brush and comb of late.
Although still hale and hearty, he had begun to feel the weight of years,
and there were days when he spent most of his time
just digging about the garden, or sitting by the
kitchen fire. Yet he continued to be the first one up and about in the
morning, and the last one to get to bed at night. His cares were many, both
indoors and out, for his wife had been long dead, and he was the sole head
of the household.
I felt something like an explorer of strange lands
on my initial visit to Hillocks. The first buildings I
encountered, as I walked up the lane to the farmhouse, were a huddle of low
stone sheds. Under the eaves of one of them, almost encroaching on the
wagon-track of the lane, was a manure-heap with dark, slimy streams crawling
away from it across the roadway to a green, offensive pool, where the farm
ducks were nosing and paddling. By going between two of the sheds I entered
the farm " close," a bare earth yard walled in on three sides by the house
and its outbuildings. A pet lamb with a bell tied to its neck ran out of the
kitchen door to investigate me, and some loitering hens sidled about
doubtfully, ready to take flight if I proved aggressive. Several heavy,
two-wheeled carts, with their shafts tilted skyward, stood idle at one side,
and there was a scattering of other farm machines.
Near the back door was a heavy old pump, with an
accompaniment of dirty puddles and a good deal of unsightly litter. I looked
in vain for some other entrance. As a matter of fact, every one went in and
out this rear door, except on the occasion of a wedding or funeral or a
formal call from the minister, and I fancy that many of the farm folk were
only half aware they had such an institution as a front door. Even for the
minister, there was no way to approach it save by going up the lane past the
and into the close. A narrow gate in a remote corner of
the close gave admittance to a hedged garden, as I discovered later, and by
following a gravelled path along the house wall one reached the front
entrance. The garden was filled with vegetables and small fruits, and there
was no lawn. But, to compensate, the walks were very tidy, and were bordered
by box and flowerbeds, while the gray stone sides of the house were relieved
by vines and fruit trees trained to grow up on them.
While I was hesitating in the close on my first visit to
Hillocks, the housekeeper, an intelligent young woman with tousled hair,
appeared at the back door and ushered me and the pet lamb into the kitchen,
explaining, as she did so, that the lamb ran all over the house, upstairs
and down. The room I was in had a paved floor, a wide fireplace, and deep
windows. A few lines of colored crockery on the shelves of the dresser
brightened the apartment a little, but on the whole it was dingy and dark,
and devoid of ornament. The tables and chairs were as plain as it was
possible to make them, and the tops of the former were half worn away with
use and scouring.
Some lumps of soft coal were burning in the fireplace, and
to hasten the fire the housekeeper added several crooked sticks of wood
which showed a perverse tendency to roll out half burned on the floor,
keeping the room dusky with smoke. Suspended from the crane
was a big girdle (a thin disk of iron sixteen or eighteen inches across,
with a bail), on which the housekeeper was baking scones. Scones are great
round cakes as large as a dinner plate and about three-quarters of an inch
thick. They are something like soda biscuit, but are tougher, and are best
eaten cold. In looks they are not at all dainty, nor even attractive, yet
spread with butter and jam they are very palatable.
I went in search of Hillocks presently. He was at the barn
where the threshing-mill was running. Power was furnished by a long-armed
turnabout, outdoors, to which four horses were attached. A man sat high on
the hub of the contrivance, and as he revolved, encouraged the horses with a
long whip. Within the barn, up in a dusty loft, I found Hillocks, assisted
by a boy and a wild-looking girl, putting unthreshed oats into the mill,
while down below were several men taking care of the straw and oats as they
came out. The work was nearly done, and soon Hillocks accompanied me into
the house. He was hospitality itself. "Ye're as welcome as the mornin'," he
declared, and when he discovered that the old dwelling interested me, he
showed me all over it.
"If I veesited America," said he, "ye'd shaw me all o'
your hoose, noo, wouldn't ye? Well, then, I'll lat ye see all o' mine."
It was an ancient and ill-arranged structure, and disorder
and bareness reigned undisputed. The lives of the inmates seemed wholly
given to getting a living, and if aught beyond that was gained, it was
hoarded. I suppose in large part the lacks of the average Scotch farmhouse
are explained by the fact that it is not owned by its farmer occupant. What
he himself does to better it he counts as thrown away. Improvements are
begged from the factor, not undertaken independently, and the factor
apparently is not anxious to do much beyond making the place habitable.
Between the thrifty desire of both tenant and landlord to save, not spend,
little is done to make the home surroundings more convenient or to improve
the house and add to the indoor comforts and amenities. Cottage kitchens
often had some brightness, but in the farmhouses they were apt to be dull
working-rooms that to New-World eyes were grim and repellent. Indeed, all
the rooms were devoid of homelikeness, and our cosey American sitting-room
seemed a thing unknown.
The farm fields, in pleasant contrast with the houses,
were free from weeds and under the most perfect cultivation. The furrows
turned by the ploughman were absolutely straight, and the rows of tatties
and neeps could hardly have been more regular. These clean fields and the
care bestowed on them would have been an object-lesson to the average Yankee
Hillocks was very proud of his housekeeper, and
frequently, when I called, he had her wrap up several of her scones in a
newspaper for me to take along to my boarding-place. He was convinced that
she had no equal in all the region. "I was yon at the inn ane day to pay ma
rent," said he, "and there was twenty and fower men there besides, and I
thraws a five pun note onto the tawble, and I says, 'I'll aye wager ony mon
here that I hae the best hoosekeeper i' the coon-try roond' — I did that!
and they daurna ony mon tak' me oop."
He had another lass on the farm who was a good housekeeper
too; but she was cross-eyed, "ane e'e glowerin' up the lum (chimney), the
ither i' the kail-pot"; and he was particular about his victuals, and did
not feel sure that a person who saw so crooked would not get them mixed. So
he kept her at field tasks usually. Still, she took the place of the
housekeeper now and then, because the latter objected to being indoors all
the time, and wanted to work in the open air for a change. There were women
laborers on every farm in the district, some old, some young, and they did
all sorts of work, except the very heaviest. The wage of a woman working by
the day was ordinarily fifteen pence. A young girl, however, who hired out
on a farm by the year would live at the farmhouse and receive six pounds for
her first year's work,
about ten for the second, and
possibly fifteen the third year.
Besides the girls living on the farm, Hillocks for a part of the time had
several feminine day-workers. I went with him on one occasion to visit a
many-acred potato field where four such helpers were hoeing. Two of them
were married women from the clachan; yet the fact they had homes and
husbands to care for did not prevent their hiring out to the farmers when
opportunity offered. With their wide straw hats, light aprons, and
long-handled hoes the squad in the potato field looked very picturesque, and
even attractive; for their attire had a neatness and freshness scarcely to
be expected under the circumstances, and three of them had nosegays pinned
to their gowns. Their tongues were running on with great animation, but they
kept steadily at work just the same.
In my calls on Hillocks the old farmer never failed to emphasize his
hospitality by offering to treat me, and the first time he was very
insistent it should be whiskey. But I had been forewarned. "Aye, he'll be
gaein' you a dram," the shoemaker's wife had said. "He pretends to hae vera
guid whuskey. ' Tak it oop,' he says, 'it'll no hurt ye. It'll gae doon tae
your vera taes.' Oh, aye, ye'll be haein' a nip o' ' the auld kirk' if ye
gae tae Hillocks. Ye canna reseest him!"
When Hillocks found there was no stirring me out of my prejudices, he
ordered the housekeeper to bring in milk, of which he was hardly less proud
than of his whiskey. Like all the milk produced in the region, it was
uncommonly rich and sweet. He accounted for its virtues by saying they were
due to the "yarbs" the "coos" browsed on in the dens. He thought those
luxuriant ravines were peculiar to the district, and, in cow pasturage, he
doubted if any other portion of the earth was favored to a like degree.
Hillocks himself chose to drink my health in the liquor to which he was
used,' and from a cupboard he brought forth a decanter and a wine-glass. He
filled the glass, then raised it aloft and prefaced the draught with a stiff
little speech full of good wishes.
His decanter contained "Irish whuskey," he told me. " Ah, but there's a
difference in drinks," he continued. "I was ance in Glesca, and the whuskey
there was juist poison. Twa-thirds o' it was water, and the lave was some
stuff—you couldna tell what — that they had put in't. I bought a glass o'
it, and aifter ane taste threw it unner the tawble. 'Twasna fit to drink.
But the Irish whuskey — it is graund, mon! There was ane evening the
doctor doon below invited me in to hae a taste, and he set oot some Irish
whuskey, and we drank five or sax roonds. It was graund! The doctor couldna
walk steady to the door aifter it, but
I gaed awa' hame wi' nae mair tribble than if I had ta'en
This affection for the social glass was nothing exceptional. The Scotch
as a people are hard drinkers, and their favorite liquor, whiskey, is kept
in nearly all the homes for occasional family drams and for treating friends
who chance to call. The conviction is growing, however, that it is the curse
of the country ; and drinking and drunkenness, which were once accepted as a
matter of course, if not as an actual glory, are falling more and more into
My host, at the close of his reminiscence showing his prowess as a
consumer of Irish whiskey, got out his snuff-box, and with the little ivory
spoon that was inside administered a good sniff to each nostril. The
snuff-taking habit was not at all general among the women or the younger
men; but the pungent dust was held to be one of the necessities by men who
were middle-aged or elderly. When two such met, their cordiality was pretty
sure to be accentuated by one or the other getting out his snuff-box, and
each taking a companionable pinch. In case the box was offered to a
non-snuff-taker, he was considered satisfactorily polite if he simply passed
it under his nose.
Many visitors came to Drumtochty, drawn by the fame that had been given
it by Ian Maclaren, and among them were a number from across the ocean.
"It's unearthly — a' thae Americans comin' here," was the comment of one
of the older village folk; for this interest shown by the outside world was
to the average inhabitant something past understanding. The most notable of
the visitors, while I was there, was a public reader, a woman, who made a
specialty of Scotch stories. She gave a reading from Maclaren in the
schoolhouse before she left, and the audience, which was entirely unused to
exhibitions of the sort, was very much impressed. Hillocks, who had a front
seat, was entirely overcome by the dramatic impersonations, and declared
afterwards that he did not suppose there was such a thing in the world.
The next day, at the request of the reader, I took her and her father,
who was travelling with her, to call on Hillocks. The old farmer considered
this a great honor, and hastened to ask us what we would " take."
"Ye wull surely taste wi' me," he said. "Ye're no a' teetot'lars! Ah-ha!
Weel, noo, I neever jined the teetot'lars masel', but I dinna drink,
nevertheless. I juist tak' a bit noo and then wi' a neebor, to be social and
friendly lak. Wull ye hae a glass wi' me? A bit whuskey 'ill no hurt a mon."
Later in our call he took hold of the reader's sleeve and remarked:
"That's a fine goon, wuman. It maun hae cost a gude bit o' siller. But it's
warum, too, aye, gey warum, and it's saft lak unner the feengers."
He mourned some over the contrast between himself and his visitors. "You
can traivel a' aroon' the warld juist as you please," said he, "while I maun
work on because I canna afford to stop." Yet he was worth forty or fifty
I have said that in the matter of cleanliness the farmhouses of the
region impressed me unfavorably, but there were exceptions. For instance, at
Drum-achar the dwelling was quite irreproachable. The scullery and the
milkhouse had floors of asphalt and walls of whitewashed plaster, and there
was no sign of dirt anywhere indoors. Outside, however, was the coal-heap
close under the kitchen windows, and a great flock of hens, ducks, and
turkeys made themselves at home in the neighborhood of the back door. On the
day I was at Drumachar noon came just as I was leaving the house, and I met
at the door two young women, the farmer's daughters, in wide, scoop-brimmed
hats, coming in from hoeing. The lassies looked neat and attractive, their
cheeks were rosy, and they seemed perfectly healthy and contented. Every
year in haying time the older girl made all the stacks — no small task, for
the farm was the largest in the district. Fifty cows were kept on it and the
milk was sent off daily to Dundee.
Haying begins at Drumtochty the last of June. Mowing-machines are in
common use, though scythes
are by no means things of the past. Turning
is done by hand, but every farmer has a horse-rake. The weather is so
inclined to be dull and showery that it is difficult to cure the grass in a
reasonable length of time, and it is therefore raked up while still rather
green, and piled in cone-shaped stacks, each containing about a fair-sized
load. The hay is left stacked in the field where it grew for several weeks
until thoroughly dry, when it is loaded on carts and conveyed to the
stackyard near the farmhouse. One mowing suffices, and in the fall the land
is let for the winter grazing of the sheep from the moors.
The horse-rake employed in gathering the hay into windrows is a heavy
iron affair, that looks as if it was meant for a harrow. A man walks along
behind to manage it and drive the horse. A very different type of rake is
used to bring the hay from the windrows to the stacks. It is a many-toothed
wooden contrivance, like a double-edged comb. It slides along flat on the
ground, and the horse is hitched a considerable distance in front, to allow
as large a mass of hay as possible to gather on the teeth. When it is to be
dumped, the man stepping along in its wake lifts the handles enough to make
the teeth catch in the ground and force it to flop over. At Drumachar the
younger sister rode the horse, sitting astride on a blanket.
In the centre of each haystack is a rough, wooden
tripod eight or ten feet high, to
serve as a support, and to help in ventilation. The person on the stack
tramps the hay and places it as it is thrown up from below till it is piled
well above the top of the wooden tripod. Special care is taken to arrange
the final forkfuls so that they shall form a cap and shed the rain. That the
top may not blow off, two ropes are adjusted over the stack. The ends dangle
down the sides, and a man below weights them with stones. Then a ladder is
set against the stack, and the worker up aloft descends.
The women do their full share of the haymaking, and their presence gives
the mowing lots an air peculiarly domestic and social. I noticed at
Drumachar that not only the farmer's daughters and several hired female
helpers engaged in the work, but if callers came, whether men or women, they
too went to the hayfield, and while they visited, partook in the labor, in
spite of their best clothes. The children were there also, and the scene was
a very pleasant and busy one.
What the everyday work of a Scotch farm is I can perhaps best make clear
by describing it as it was at Hillocks, for it was there I became most
familiar with its routine. Of course, allowance must be made for variations
in details. Hillocks himself is out in the fields in summer at half-past
four. But previous to leaving the house he rouses the rest of the farm family
and does some of the
preliminary kitchen work. First he attends to the fire, which, thanks to his
mania for economy, still has a dim bit of life in it lingering from the day
before. Each night, to save the expense of the match it would be necessary
to use in relighting his fire if it went out, he covers the coals with clods
— peelings of mossy turf from the moor. These peelings are chiefly used to
cover the potatoes when they are piled up in the fields for winter storage,
but Hillocks makes them do double service.
After he has replenished the fire, Hillocks hangs the porridge pot on the
sway, with enough oatmeal in it for the household breakfast, and he sets a
mess of milk heating for the calves. The farm help are supposed to be up and
starting work at five, but, like a great
many folk in other parts of the world, they feel their
sleepiest at getting-up time, and their response to the master's summons is
not as ready as it might be. Most likely they nap until he comes in from his
field work and calls again. The farmer begins to be disturbed now, and he
cries up the stairway that the clock has struck five, "and the naxt one
it'll chop'll be sax!" or he informs them, "the sun's gaein' wast, and the
pay's rinnin' on."
The girls exasperate him by their dilatoriness in dressing, and to them
he calls out, "It'll tak' ye five minutes to pit in every pin! "
Judging from the usual looks of their clothing, pins were the chief
fastenings, and I suppose a secure adjustment consumed of necessity a good
deal of time. The men, when they rise, go to the barn and take care of the
horses, and the three lassies milk the cows and feed the calves and pigs.
Toward seven, the breakfast hour, the men come in and wash. None of them use
soap; neither do the lassies. It is a luxury of which Hillocks does not
approve; and when one of his hired girls exchanged some farm produce with a
pedler, for a cake of the toilet variety, he was very much shocked. She put
it in a convenient place for family use; but Hillocks would not allow such
extravagance. "Washin' hands with soap!" he exclaimed; "ye're enough to ruin
The girl with longings for soap had a weakness for the esthetic in other
directions also, and one day created a similar storm by whitening the
ash-hole, and going over the hearthstone with blue chalk. These things are
quite customary among such Scotch housewives as take pains to beautify their
kitchens, but to Hillocks it seemed a waste of valuable time and energy.
"I've lived seventy and twa years i' the world, and never seen the ash-hole
whitened afore," was his disapproving comment.
The farm breakfast consists of porridge, milk, and a cup of tea. The
girls gather at a table on one side of
the room, and the men at a table opposite. As they sit down, Hillocks is
wont to say, boastfully, "I had a drill (row) hoed afore ony o' ye came oot;"
or if it is not the hoeing season, he mentions some other task he has
accomplished while they were drowsing.
From breakfast till noon all the farm hands, with the exception of the
housekeeper, are working in the fields. At "twal" they come in to eat
dinner. The bill of fare is broth made of kail, carrots, pease, and cabbage,
followed by meat and potatoes; and occasionally there is a dessert of
rhubarb, stewed with milk. After the men go out, the women may make a cup of
tea on the sly; but they all scurry out of sight if Hillocks appears in the
midst of this clandestine indulgence, for he "doesna alloo much tea."
Just before dinner the lassies had driven in the cows, and now they
resort to the byres and milk them, and then turn them out to pasture again.
The men care for the horses, and sit about smoking and talking till two,
when they are due in the fields. At half-past six. they break off work, put
up their horses, and are free to do what they please. The supper at seven is
of tea and jam, with meat food in the form of ham, stewed rabbit, or eggs.
Bread, scones, and oat cakes are on the table at every meal. Between eight
and nine the women milk for the third time, and their work is not often done
till toward ten.
Hens and ducks were plenty at Hillocks, but they were never served on the
family table. They went to market instead, and were turned into "siller."
The hens were the care of the housekeeper. They roosted on some poles under
the eaves, in an old cow byre. They laid all around the buildings, sometimes
in the corn, or under a hedge, and there was one biddy that walked up the
back stairs every day, and laid an egg in the ploughman's bed.
The farmers hire their help by the year, and the year ends at Martinmas,
the 28th of November. There are two hiring days, the first known as " Little
Dunning Market," and the second as "Flit Friday." The former, which is by
far the more important, is the great holiday of the year to the farm help.
It comes on the third Friday of October, and they all go to Perth and stand
along the chief street, and bargain with the farmers who come among them to
"Are ye gaein' tae fee thae day?" asks the farmer.
If the reply is affirmative, and they can settle on a satisfactory wage,
the farmer gives the man a shilling to bind the bargain, and each takes the
other's address. So great is the crowd on the street that "it seems a won'er
the women and bairns do not get crushed."
It is not a quiet crowd. The ploughmen are there for a holiday, and they
are bound to celebrate, and "An awfu' lot o' them gets drunk — women tae."
"Every Jockie has his Jeannie," and the men are giving all the girls they
know fairings — that is, they treat them to sweeties (candy), fruits, and
drink, and buy them ribbons, gloves, and other little things. For themselves
the ploughmen invest in "great muckle paper roses," half a dozen on a
branch, and this branch they stick in their hats. The hilarity waxes higher
as the day advances, and men are seen parading around with their arms about
their sweethearts' necks, and in the demonstrative sociability the women's
bonnets are half torn off their heads, though the wearers are quite
oblivious of the fact. But the day at length comes to an end, and the farm
help scatters out into the country, and the next morning those who have
recovered from the effects of their holiday are at work in their old places.
There they continue until Martinmas Day, the time appointed for "
flitting " to their new masters. Flit Friday is the Friday after Martinmas.
It is a mild repetition of Little Dunning Market, and exists for those who
failed to fee on the earlier occasion. Such go then to Perth, and stand for
hire on the chief street, and bargain for places just as the others did a
few weeks before.
Aside from these days that were peculiarly the ploughman's, there were
various others sprinkled through the year that had more or less of a holiday
flavor to the
people of Drumtochty. To begin with, there was the "First Footin" that
ushered in the new year. The young men did not go to bed on New Year's Eve,
and at twelve o'clock they rang the Free Kirk bell, and started out for a
tour of the village. As they went they made all the noise they could,
shouting and singing, beating drums and playing on "melo-jeons"
(accordions). They knocked on the doors and bade the house dwellers get up
and let them in. Not so many respond to these summons as in former days ;
but where entrance is gained, the first man who crosses the threshold treats
the family to whiskey, and the midnight callers all expect to be treated in
return. The idea is that the "first foot" in a house on the New Year brings
it good luck, provided there is an accompaniment of mutual treating.
But "First Footin" is only an incident at most, and the New Year's
observance of Hansel Monday is of much more consequence. This is the first
Monday of January, and translated into plain English it means
"Present" or "Token" Monday. Bits of money, or small articles bought
for the purpose, are given to the children, while good feeling among their
elders is promoted by neighborly visits, in which they lunch and drink a
friendly glass together. In old times it was the fashion with the arrival of
each caller to get out a great kebbock (cheese) and hand it to
the visitor, who put it on his knee and cut off what he
wanted to eat. Now, all callers are treated to short-bread, and every
housekeeper lays in a goodly supply of it the week preceding. Probably no
one anticipates Hansel Monday with more pleasure than the lass who delivers
the mail; for her faithful services during the year are then remembered by
the bestowal of many little presents of money, when she makes her rounds. In
the evening there is generally a dancing party in the schoolhouse, with a
fiddler to furnish music, and the merriment continues till daylight.
The next notable day is one appointed in February for a ploughing match.
At eight o'clock on the day selected, sixteen ploughs are ready for the
contest in a big field on one of the large farms. No end of men are present
from all the country around to look on and to partake of the refreshments,
both solid and fluid, furnished the crowd by the farmer on whose land the
match takes place. Each team is to plough a half acre, and the work
continues well into the afternoon. At the close of the contest the judges
make the awards and distribute the prizes. One prize is for the man who
finishes first, another for the one with the best horses, another for the
oldest, and one for the youngest ploughman, one for the tidiest dressed
ploughman, one for the ploughman with the largest family, etc. If a man did
not excel in one way he was
likely to in another, and
the list of prizes was long enough, so that every man had a fair chance to
On April first the children celebrate in much the same way they do in our
country. They fool each other and their elders, pin bits of paper on coats,
and send the unwary on errands that are invented for the day. The errand
trick is the one on which they most pride themselves, and it is that gives
the day its Scotch title of "Gowk's Errant Day."
"Fastern's E'en," too, is the occasion of considerable curious
celebrating in Drumtochty. I was a good deal puzzled to know what the term
meant, for all that the villagers could tell me was simply that it was
usually in February. First came Candlemas, and then you waited till you had
a new moon, and the night of the next "Chuesday" after that was "Fastern's
E'en." Finally I asked the Free Kirk minister, and he said it was the
evening before Lent, an evening which in some countries would be celebrated
as the climax of the carnival time preceding the Lenten quiet. It was a
strange echo of these revels that had found its way to the Scotch upland.
Some one in the village would make up a lot of small "treacle scones," and
invite all the "young folks" to come in for the evening. By young folks was
not meant just the unmarried lads and lassies. "Oh, we wouldna like it,"
said the shoemaker's wife,
"no to gae after we marry.
The young fowk are ony frae twal to fifty, married or unmarried. I hae seen
a gude hooseful whiles i' this kitchen on Fastern's E'en. Soom sit on the
chairs, soom on the bed and the table — oh, onywhere! The scones wad hae
things stirred in wi' the batter, but ye couldna tell what you might get. We
wad aye feel the scone wi' our feengers afore we ate it. Soomtimes there wad
be ane thing in it, soomtimes twa, or it might be none at a'. If you found a
reeng, you wad be the first to marry ; or a button, you wad marry a tailor;
or a thimmel, wad sew for a leevin'; or a threpenny bit, wad marry a reech
mon. Then by and by, aifter the fun is ower, each lad wad be huntin' a lass
an' speirin' wad she gae hame wi' him. ' Are ye ready to gae hame noo?' he
wad say ; and if she said, 'No, I am no ready,' he wad ken he couldna hae
her, and then he wad speir soom ither lass, and aifter the lassies were a'
seen hame the lads might pu' the kail stalks up in our gardens, or tie
sticks across our doors so we couldna get oot naxt mornin'. Aye, it wad fair
scunner ye, soom o' the things the laddies dae on Fastern's E'en."
In September a "flower show" is held in the school-house, to which resort
the people from all the region. They bring for exhibition flowers, both cut
and in pots; garden vegetables, fruits, honey, butter, cheese; and the cooks
each contribute samples of their culinary art in the shape of a certain
number of scones and oat cakes and six boiled potatoes. A small charge is
made for admission, a "sheddle" (schedule or catalogue) is printed, and
various prizes are given.
Later in the fall the young folks find pleasure in the dusk of the chilly
evenings gathering the hedge cuttings and rubbish into piles and making
great shanacles (bonfires). Still later comes Hallowe'en with its "apple
dookin','' burning of nuts, and other sports, and then there is a blank
until Christmas. On that day, in the homes where there are young children,
they "do up the hoose wi' greens," which means that the kitchen is trimmed
with box, fir, ivy, and holly; and a final touch is furnished by a sprig of
mistletoe, which is hung over the kitchen door to give the inmates the
liberty to kiss whoever comes in. It is mainly the young people who do the
kissing. If a man whose youth is past takes advantage of the mistletoe, the
others deride him and say: "You've no need to be rinnin' aifter the lassies.
You're up on the shelf a'ready." Inexpensive presents are given to the
bairns at home and to some of their small relatives who live near by. The
grownup folk take no notice of the day for themselves, except that the wife
invites in several friends to an extra good dinner at seven after " he," as
the wife calls the husband, has finished work. Plum pudding and tea cakes
are the special features of this repast.
The year ends with "Hogmanay Night." "Hogmanay " is an ancient term of
uncertain meaning, though some suppose its equivalent to be the hearty
old-time greeting, "God be with you." On this last night of the year it is
the custom of the children to go "guysin'." They start out, half a dozen or
so in a company, just after they have eaten their supper, at about six
o'clock. "Soom blacks their faces wi' soot," explained my landlady, "wi'
perhaps a spot here and there o' whitening. Ithers hae false faces on. They
wear auld coats, and tie their trousers up wi' strae. I gey often dress
Jimmie as a wuman. I hae seen them no kennin' him at a'. Soom wull hae penny
whustles, and they carry long sticks to pound wi' when they dance. They gae
a' through the clachan to every hoose, and then to the farmhooses not too
far awa'. They gae in wi' no muckle knockin', an' the fowk say, 'Why div ye
no begin to sing and dance? 'One o' their songs is this —
"'Get up, auld wife, and shake your feathers, And dinna think that we are
beggars, We're juist a wheen bairns come oot tae play; Rise up and gie us
Before they go, the fowk treats them to oranges, shortbread, or cake, and
gies them usually a penny apiece. They wullna get hame till ten or eleven
o'clock, and soomtimes Jimmie hae near twa shillings."
The grown people, too, go guysing occasionally. In that case two men
dress up in women's clothes, and two women put on men's garments, and a
third man goes along and plays an accordion. But such parties are only
intent on having a lark, and do not make the extended tours the children do.
They go simply to a few houses of their special friends and dance and
perform, and with their masks and costumes try to mystify those on whom they
call, as to who they really are.
Perhaps I should include among the holidays the two fast days of the
year, but there is nothing recreative about them. One comes in June and the
other in December, and they are kept much like the Sabbath, with cessation
of work and long services in the churches that are very generally attended.
Of a character that has much more of the holiday air, are some of the
customs connected with the weddings. The evening of the day preceding that
set for the ceremony is one looked forward to with dread by the prospective
bride, for that is the "footwashing" evening. A crowd of young people call
at the bride's home, but she, often half distracted, has gone into hiding.
The visitors search high and low, and never give up till they are
successful. "I hae seen them," said the shoemaker's wife, "rinnin' a'
through the toon aifter her. There was ane lass lived naxt door, and
she came into oor hoose and went through the scullery and
oot at the back window whiles the crowd was waiting at the door. But they
juist saw her heels gaein' wast the road, and were aifter her; and she went
doon the lane and in at Jean Robinson's, and hid in her garret ; and when
the crowd came, Jean tried to persuade them she wasna there, but they
wouldna be persuaded. There were a guid mony, and Jean cried, 'For God's
sake, dinna gae up my garret! If ye a' gae up, ye'll come doon through.'
"But they got the lass and took her hame. Then she was set in a chair,
and her shoes and stockings pulled aff, and they wad rub their hands up the
lum in the soot and then rub them on her feet, and use brushes, too, till
her feet wad be juist shinin'. Whuskey was generally gaein' at the
feetwashing, and soom o' the men wad be very rough. Clothes wad get dirty,
and soomtimes torn, and if you wore your best claes, so much the waur for
you. I ken that ance Sandy Duncan came in unawares, late, and he had on his
white cuffs, and they got a haud o' him wi' their soot, and he was a sight
"They use soap and cloths and brushes a', in the washin', and the flure
wad be juist sailin' wi' water. Then at the end they'd hae a dance. We'd hae
nae music, but we'd sing to dance by — nae words, only diddlin (humming).
When we'd get gaein', we'd a'
diddle thegither, soom
o' us on ane tune and soom on anither; and aifter that the lads wad very
likely carry the bridegroom aff on their shoulders to the public and make
him stand treat a' aroond."
On the evening of the wedding a sharp watch is kept that the bridegroom
may be seen on his way to the home of the bride, and if the night is rainy,
it is thought to be a clever pleasantry to pelt him with flour. Wet or dry,
many friendly shoes are thrown at him, though the friendliness is not so
apparent if the aim proves true. One woman told me that on an evening when
she was to act as bridesmaid, she accompanied the groom from the clachan to
his intended's home on a neighboring farm, "and I walkit juist a wee buttie
along," said she, "gaein' east on his arm, when soom ane threw a shoe, and
it hit him side o' the heid and cut his face, and the blood poored doon, and
I thought he was killed."
If the bride's home was sufficiently distant, so that the bridal
attendants rode to it in a brake, every one threw shoes and rice at the
occupants of the vehicle as they were leaving the village. "I mind," said
the bridesmaid before quoted, " I threw my mither's slippers ance, when I
hadna time to find ony auld shoon, and they gaed into the machine (wagon)
and I never saw them again."
The guests gather at the bride's in the best room.
Just before the ceremony the bridegroom goes in, and there he is "talkin'
awa' " when the bride enters a little later on her father's arm, preceded by
her bridesmaids. The young couple now take their places before a window, and
the minister reads the service. The minister's remuneration consists of a
pair of gloves and a silk handkerchief supplied by the groom, who also is
expected to give his best man, shortly before the wedding, a white shirt and
collar and tie. The couple themselves have a variety of presents, including
lamps, silverware, and other household furnishings, and a Bible, which is
the regulation gift from the minister. These things are shown to calling
friends on the two or three days that antedate the wedding, but are not
exhibited the evening of the ceremony.
On a table in the room where the wedding takes place is the bride's loaf,
frosted and fancy and, not unfrequently, three stories high. Near by are
wine and wine glasses. As soon as the ceremony is over the bride cuts the
loaf and the bridesmaids pass it about among the guests. At the same time
the wine is poured and healths are drank. Then the company adjourns to an
upstairs room and sits down to supper. This room has been cleared of its
ordinary furniture, and two long tables improvised with boards give it the
air of a dining hall. Dishes have been borrowed from the neighbors, and the
girl friends of the bride have helped prepare the
feast, and are present to wait on the tables. Roast beef, boiled ham, fowl,
pastry, beer, and bottled lemonade are the chief items in the bill of fare.
The minister leaves at the conclusion of the supper, much to the relief
of the company, whose spirits are not a little repressed in his presence.
They now go downstairs, and the old people sit and talk in the best room,
while the young folks dance in the kitchen. The scraping of the fiddle and
the clatter of feet, with pauses now and then for some one to sing a song,
go on till midnight. Then there is an intermission, and tea and cakes are
passed around, and such as choose take a drop of whiskey. At one dancing is
resumed, and it is two or three hours later when the wedding party breaks