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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish
Social Life


We give the following particulars from “ Roger’s Social Life,” which no doubt illustrates life in Kirkintilloch parish, as well as other parts of Scotland:—

“At the Reformation it was enacted by the General Assembly that all who wished to marry must submit their names to the minister or session-clerk for proclamation of banns on three successive Sundays. Subsequently it was permitted on payment of a larger fee that the banns might be completed by one public announcement, the words, 'for the first, second, and third time,’ being added.

“In times immediately subsequent to the Reformation forty days were required to ensue between the time of "booking" and the day of marriage. During the interval the bride was supposed to receive no visitors save her relations and early friends. Young folks rubbed shoulders with the bride, so as to obtain matrimonial infection.”

We have the authority of an experienced matron for the following as a complete inventory of a bride’s plenishing, according to old Scottish notions, and which—especially in the country—is often still regarded as indispensable:—(1) A chest of drawers, “split new,” and ordered for the occasion; (2) bed and table linen, or ttaiprie, as it is styled, with a supply of blankets; (3) a “set" of silver tea spoons, and in some districts (4) an eight-day clock. But the sine qua non of all was (5) a. LADLE.— Wilson.

“A process of feet-washing was enacted. One or twa evenings before the nuptial ceremony a party of the bridegroom^ friends assembled at his dwelling. Into his spence or parlour they bore a washing-tub, with towels and soap. Volunteering to wash his feet as a respectful service, the privilege was readily granted to them. But no sooner was the bridegroom's unclothed limbs plunged into the water than commenced a horrid saturnalia. The limbs were besmeared with grease and soot. Then were applied brushes of coarse bristle, and when the cleansing process was completed the besmearing was renewed. The merriment was prolonged till both the performers and the bridegroom were utterly exhausted. Feasting followed at the bridegroom's cost.

“In rural districts it was held that a bride should on her marriage day appear uncovered, but wear a cap ever afterwards. All declined to marry in May. . . . The Lowlander was averse to marry on Friday, but the Highlander chose that day as the most hopeful.

“Creeling the bridegroom was during the last century practised in Berwickshire. Early in the morning after the marriage there was strapped to the bridegroom’s back a basket of stones or gravel, and a large-handled broom laid on his left shoulder. Thus equipped, he was forced to run fleetly, while the bride was expected to follow and to disengage him of his burden.

“By sundry rites was the newly married wife welcomed to her home. At the threshold was held over her head a sieve containing bread and cheese, and as she entered the dwelling there was broken upon her head the infar-cake, a cake of shortbread specially prepared, while all joined in the song—

Welcome to your ain fireside,
Health and wealth attend the bride;
Wanters noo your true weird make,
Joes are spaed by the infar-cake.

“In anticipation of a birth, the women of the family prepared a large and rich cheese called the ktnno, as the males of the household were supposed to be ignorant of its existence. After the birth it was cut in portions and distributed among the matrons who were in attendance. The mother and child were then sained—that is, a fir-candle was whirled round the bed three several times. By means of this rite evil influence was held to be averted.

“The new-born child was plunged in a vessel of cold water, into which was cast a live coal. Thereafter was the infant, if a male, wrapped in a woman’s shift; if a girl, in a man's shirt. Before touching the little one, female visitors were expected to cross themselves with a burning brand. The child was not to be unduly commended, lest it should be forespoken, which implied consequences detrimental to fortune.

“When a child was baptised, the infant was placed in a basket, on which was spread a white cloth, with portions of bread and cheese. It was then suspended by a crook over the fire-place, which was three times moved round. Thereby was destroyed the noxious influence of the fairies and other malignant powers. When baptism was to be performed in church, the bearer carried portions of bread and cheese, which she offered to the person first met. If the offer was rejected, bad luck for the child was apprehended.

“When several children were baptised together, it was deemed essential that the males should be presented first; when a girl was prior to a boy handed up, it was apprehended that she would afterwards be disfigured by a beard.

“Prognostications of death were superstitiously entertained. When a tallow candle shed grease over the edge in a semi-circular form, it was held to betoken that the person to whom it was turned was about to die. When, after moving across a dead body, a cat proceeded to the roof of a house, it was deemed an omen that the head of the house was to be gathered to his fathers.

“When a sick person was believed to be at the point of death no occupant of his dwelling-house was allowed to sleep. On the event of his death the house clock was stopped, and the dial-plate concealed. When a body was enshrouded, the house-mirrors were covered, and a bell was placed under the head, and a small vessel, with earth and salt, laid upon the breast. When the head of a family was removed, white paint was scattered upon the door of his dwelling, the spots so formed being held to denote the tears of the household.

“Tea was introduced in Scotland by the Duke of York, when, in 1682, as high commissioner he held court at Holyrood. But its acceptance was slow. The price of a pound of tea in 1715 was 25s. For many years it was used as a medicine. In country places, even a century ago, farmers’ wives, in preparing it for their guests, carefully removed the liquor, which they believed to be unwholesome, and served up with butter or honey the boiled leaves.”

When tea was first introduced into Scotland, the worthy Lady Pumphraston, a dame of no small quality, had sent to her, as an exquisite delicacy, a pound of green tea. Her ladyship, anxious to give the welcome present every justice, had it dressed as a condiment to a rump of salted meat, but she afterwards complained that it was of no use, and that no amount of boiling would render these foreign greens tender! In Kincardineshire, a worthy man, with a little capital, set up a woollen mill. Coming home one evening at the end of the first year he appeared in great good humour, and meeting his wife at the door, he says, “Ye’ll mak’ a drap tea till’s, gudewife.” Tea was then a considerable rarity, and looked upon in the light of a luxury. “ Ou, ay,” says his wife, “but what’s ado wi* ye the nicht?” “ Eh, ’oman, the milly’s doin' fine; she has cleared hersel* already, and something forbye.” The next night he was looking rather disconsolate. On his wife inquiring if again he was to have tea, “Na,” says he, “we’ll ha’e nae mair o’ that stuff. That stupid blockhead, Jock, in balancing the books, added in the Anno Domini along wi’ the pounds.”

“In the light of modem experience a resolution respecting the use of tea by the tenants of William Fullarton of Fullar-ton, in 1744, is extremely ludicrous. It proceeds: ‘We, being all farmers by profession, think it needless to restrain ourselves formally from indulging in that foreign and consumptive luxury called tea; for when we consider the slender constitutions of many of the higher rank, amongst whom it is used, we conclude that it would be but an improper diet to qualify us for the more robust and manly parts of our business; and therefore we shall give our testimony against it, and leave the enjoyment of it altogether to those who can afford to be weak, indolent, and useless

“In the middle of the fourteenth century the pound sterling and the pound Scots were equal in value, each being actually one pound of silver. In 1366 the pound of silver was worth 25s. in both countries, but in 1373 the Scottish currency was reduced to three-fourths of that of England. At the beginning of the reign of Queen Mary, the pound of silver in England was coined into and in Scotland into £9 12s. In Scotland it increased in 1562 to £15 15s while in England the value remained stationary. In 1565 the pound weight of silver was £8 sterling in tale, and £18 in Scottish money. By Keith we are informed that in 1570 a pound Scots was seven times more valuable than when in 1734 he composed his history. And it is estimated that in purchasing the necessaries of life, the pound Scots of 1570 would be at least sixteen times more valuable than at the present time. Taking into account the difference in the value of money, John Knox’s stipend of 400 merks as minister of Edinburgh was equal in present money value to £700 or £800 sterling.

“Beer was at at first imported, but in the fifteenth century brewers from Germany planted themselves in the principal towns. In Kinross-shire 4 the browst ’which the gudewife' o’ Lochrin produced from a peck o' maut, is commemorated thus :

‘Twenty pints o* strong ale,
Twenty pints o’ sma,
Twenty pints o’ hinkie pinkie,
Twenty pints o’ ploughman’s drinkie,
Twenty pints o' splitter splatter,
And twenty pints wes waur than water.*

“In the eighteenth century ale was usually brewed in three qualities—described as ostler ale, household ale, and strong ale—the last being reserved for holiday times. Household ale was retailed at 2d. per pint, hence the liquor was popularly known as twopenny. In Tam o’ Shan ter, Burns writes,

‘ Wi' tippenny we fear nae evil.*

“Whisky, that is uisege-beatha, or water of life, was manufactured in the fifteenth century. At first used as a medicine it was dispensed only by persons specially authorised. In 1579 persons of substance were allowed to manufacture whisky for use in their own families. About 1742 a taste for foreign spirits having been created, homemade liquor ceased to be in demand. Smuggling became a species of trade, preferred by many tenant-farmers on both coasts to irksome labour in the fields. From the time of the Union till the close of the century, contrabandists stood high in popular esteem, commended for venturous daring, they were regarded as benefactors by lessening the price of commodities; also by defying our auld enemies of England, as the shirking of the excise duties was supposed effectually to do. The illegality of their employment was forgotten or disregarded . . . where persons of all ranks were openly and unscrupulously their customers. In the year 1800, about 10,000 gallons of foreign spirits were smuggled into the country every month. Contraband traffic at length fell by judicious legislation. The commutation law of Mr. Pitt, by reducing the duties upon excisable articles, assailed the contrabandist with his own weapons, and ultimately overwhelmed him. At the same time illicit distillation was revived. Unlicensed stills arose in Highland glens, and on lowland muirs; also in the backyards of hamlets, and in ordinary farm-courts. The process of distilling was so simple, that the crofter’s wife could conduct it in a booth, while her husband laboured on the farm. When peculation was effected with outward decency, the conscience of the pilferer was quiescent. As the pious minister of Roseneath early in the century was remonstrating with a parishioner, who acknowledged that he distilled without license, he was met with the rejoinder, *I alloo nae sweerin’ at the still, and everything’s dune dacently and in order; I canna see ony harm in’t.’ At length in 1806 illicit distillation was made the subject of a stern enactment, which was rigidly enforced, with eminent benefit to the revenue. The duty derived from spirits in Scotland in 1777 was £8,000; in 1806 it increased to a quarter of a million.”

Sir Walter Scott made excursions into Liddesdale accompanied by Mr. Robert Shortreed, sheriff-substitute of Roxburghshire, and the following is told of one of these in Lockhart’s life of Sir Walter :—“ On reaching one evening, some Charlies-hope or other (I forget the name) among those wildernesses, they found a kindly reception as usual: but to their agreeable surprise after some days of hard living, a measured and orderly hospitality as respected liquor. Soon after supper, at which a bottle of elderberry wine alone had been produced, a young student of divinity, who happened to be in the house, was called upon to take the ‘big ha’ Bible/ in the good old fashion of Bums’s Saturday Night; and some progress had already been made in the service, when the good man of the farm, whose ‘tendency,' as Mr. Mitchell says, ‘was soporific' scandalized his wife and the dominie by starting suddenly from his knees, and rubbing his eyes, with a stentorian exclamation of ‘By, here’s the keg at last!’ and in tumbled, as he spake the word, a couple of sturdy herdsmen, whom, on hearing a day before of the advocate’s approaching visit, he had despatched to a certain smuggler’s haunt, at some considerable distance, in quest of a supply of run brandy from the Solway Frith. The pious exercise of the household was hopelessly interrupted. With a thousand apologies for his hitherto shabby entertainment, this jolly Elliot, or Armstrong, had the welcome keg mounted on the table without a moment’s delay, and gentle and simple, not forgetting the dominie, continued carousing about it until daylight streamed in upon the party.

“Sir Walter Scott seldom failed, when I saw him in company with his Liddesdale companion, to mimic with infinite humour the sudden outburst of his old host, on hearing the clatter of horses’ feet, which he knew to indicate the arrival of the keg—the consternation of the dame—and the rueful despair with which the young clergyman closed the book.”


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