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Scotland, Social and Domestic
Drolleries


A jester or fool was attached to the Scottish Court; subordinate jesters were also employed. "John Bute the fule" is mentioned by the poet Dunbar in connection with the court of James IV. In the Treasurer's Book he is described' as "Gentil John ye Inglise fule." He was employed on active service, and seems to have had charge of providing beasts and birds for the royal menagerie. John Machilsie was jester to James V. An assistant of this personage is mentioned by his sobriquet of Gille-mowband in the treasurer's accounts. Archy Armstrong, jester to James VI., was the most celebrated of his order. He indulged in jests at the expense of noted courtiers, and even of the monarch himself. Emboldened by his triumphs, he unwittingly attempted a joke at the cost of Archbishop Laud. The prelate was proceeding to the council-table, when Archy accosted him, "Wha's fule now Doth not your Grace hear the news from Edinburgh about the Liturgy?" The reproof fell heavily on the proud Churchman, who insisted on Armstrong's dismissal. The following entry occurs in the Privy Council Records:—"March 1, 1637-38.—It is this day ordered by his Majesty, with the advice of the Board, that Archibald Armstrong, the king's fool, for certain scandalous words of a high nature spoken by him against the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury his Grace, and proved to be uttered by him by two witnesses, shall have his coat pulled over his head, and be discharged of the king's service, and banished the Court; for which the Lord Chamberlain of the king's household is prayed and required to give order to be executed." Though the king thus degraded his old favourite, no real injury was inflicted. Archy, ostensibly "a fool," had evinced much worldly wisdom in respect of his emoluments; he retired from the Court in independent circumstances.

Some of the nobility employed a kind of juggler, who amused the juveniles, and got up necromantic entertainments on gala days. James IV. pensioned James Hog, "a tale-teller," or reciter of legendary stories, who was also employed in the royal armoury. There were humourists of mark in the farmer's ha' and the peasant's cottage. Nearly every district possessed its "wit," some one who, under the colour of jesting, uttered wise-sayings and administered prudent counsel. The village smithy was a place of rendezvous for old and young. Here the new jest and the stirring tale found willing listeners; while these retailed to wife and weans at the various ingle-sides served to beguile the evening hours.

Four centuries ago the manners of the Court were, in point of decorum, not more refined than those of the peasantry. One has only to read the poetry of William Dunbar, which found favour among princesses, to perceive that at his period (1465—1536) the proprieties of civilized life were at the lowest ebb. The long alienation of the Scottish Royal house and of the principal nobility from the purer Court of England, and the importation of noxious manners from France, produced this social degradation. The first impulse to a better state of things was imparted by James I., on his return from his English captivity. By constituting certain manly exercises as royal sports he improved the habits of the nobles. Among the common people he established many amusing games and healthful exercises. By his songs and music he enchanted all classes.

The early death of James I. interrupted the progress of social reform, and the nobility of the third generation were ready to reject the regal authority of James III., because he preferred artistic studies and literary society. During the reign of James V. the manners of the upper classes had considerably improved ; yet Queen Mary, on her return from France, had occasion to remark that her nobility were unrefined and vulgar.

Among the popular games encouraged by James I. were "tossing the kebar," "casting the bar," and "throwing the hammer." These have been popular ever since. Leaping has long been a favourite pastime. "The high leap," "the low leap," and "hop, step, and leap," have each particular characteristics.

Dancing may be traced to an early period. The patriot Wallace, in arranging his troops at the battle of Falkirk, exclaimed, "I have brocht ye to the ring; dance gif ye can." In the opening lines of his poem of "Chryst-Kirk," James I. refers to the prevalence of dancing at the annual merry-makings.

"Was nevir in Scotland heard nor sene,
Sic Dancing and Deray,
Nowthir at Falkland on the Green,
Nor Pehills at the Play."

Morrice (Moorish) dances, which were common in England at an early period, were practised at the Scottish Court during the reign of James IV. Though included in "the games lawful to be observed" in King James's "Book of Sports," published in 1618, these dances were nearly unknown after the Reformation. The morrice dancer was arrayed in a fantastic costume, covered with bells, which played chimes consequent on his evolutions in the dance. In the possession of the Glover Incorporation of Perth, a morrice-dancer's costume has been preserved. The following account of this piece of ancient attire was furnished to Sir Walter Scott, and is appended in a note to his "Fair Maid of Perth:"—

"This curious vestment is made of fawn-coloured silk, in the form of a tunic, with trappings of white and red satin. There accompany it two hundred and fifty-two small circular bells, formed into twenty-one sets of twelve bells each, upon pieces of leather, made to fasten to various parts of the body. What is most remarkable about these bells is the perfect intonation of each set, and the regular musical intervals between the tone of each. The twelve bells on each piece of leather are of various sizes, yet all combining to form one perfect intonation, in concord with the leading note in the set. These concords are maintained, not only in each set, but also in the interval between the various pieces. The performer could thus produce, if not a tune, at least a pleasing and musical chime, according as he regulated with skill the movements of his body."

Promiscuous dancing was proscribed by the Presbyterian Reformers. There were, it must be acknowledged, some weighty reasons. The dances of the Scottish Court were attended with libidinous practices. Queen Mary introduced new dances from the French Court, which, in their evolutions and accessories were even more reprehensible than those which already degraded Scottish fashionable life. The Queen sought the pleasures of the dance when her people were inclined to clothe themselves in sackcloth. "On the day on which the news arrived of the massacre of Vassy, the Queen by accident or design gave a ball at Holyrood. St. Giles's pulpit rung with it, as may be supposed, the succeeding Sunday; and when the preacher was called to answer for his language, he told Mary Stuart that she was dancing, like the Philistines, for the pleasure taken in the displeasure of God's people.

Till the close of the seventeenth century, all persons found dancing were dragged before Kirksessions, and fined or otherwise censured. In some portions of the Highlands the old prejudices against dancing have not quite subsided. In 1868, Mr. Peter Clark, farmer, was, by the Kirksession of the Free Church congregation at North Knapdale, Argyllshire, denied a certificate of church membership, because he was known to indulge in the practice of dancing. The case was, on appeal, discussed at the higher judicatories, when the reverend minister at North Knapdale strongly maintained that dancing was "a scandal," "a flagrant inconsistency in a communicant," and "a sin and bitter provocation to the Lord." The reverend gentleman was without a seconder.

Killie-kallum, or the sword dance, has long been practised in the Highlands. According to Olaus Magnus, it was originated by the Norwegians, from whom it had been received by the inhabitants of Orkney and Shetland.

There are some amusements of a grotesque description seldom omitted at the annual Saturnalia. "Climbing the greasy pole " never fails to excite the hearty laugh. The performers endeavour to secure the prize of a leg of mutton by ascending a smooth round pole, rendered slippery by a thorough greasing. The competitors increase in enthusiasm at each successive defeat, till some one at length bears off the well-won prize amidst the plaudits of spectators. Hurling a wheel-harrow blindfold is a favourite recreation. The performer undertakes a most difficult task, since instead of proceeding to the right spot, he is likely to describe a circle and return to the vicinity of the place from which he started.

The most ludicrous of these holiday amusements is the sack-race. Each competitor steps into a corn-sack, which is made fast about his neck, his uncovered head alone escaping the ludicrous disguise. The competitors start together at a preconcerted signal, and of course all do their utmost to reach the goal first. But difficulties attend them at every step. In the course of a few seconds one half of the competitors are hors de combat, and their fruitless struggles to resume the upright posture cannot be contemplated without laughter. With those who speed on after a certain rollicking fashion the race-course is strewn ere long. Probably not a single competitor maintains his footing. This sport is humorously described by Dr. William Tennant in his poem of Anster Fair.

O 'twas an awkward and ridic'lous show,
To see a long sack-muffled line of men
With hatless heads all peeping in a row,
Forth from the long smocks that their limbs contain;
For in the wide abyss of cloth below
Their legs are swallow'd and their stout arms twain,
From chin to toe one shapeless lump, they stand
In clumsy uniform, without leg, arm, or hand.

* * * * *

As when on summer eve a soaking rain
Hath after drought bedrench'd the tender grass,
If chance in pleasant walk along the plain
Bursting with foot the pearl-hung blades you pass,
A troop of frogs oft leaps from field of grain,
Marshall'd in line, a foul unseemly race,
They halt a space, then vaulting up they fly,
As if they long'd to sit on Iris' brow on high.

So leap'd the men, half sepulchred in sack,
Up-swinging with their shapes be-monstring spy,
And cours'd in air a semicircle track,
Like to the feath'ry-footed Mercury;
Till, spent their impetus, with sounding thwack
Greeted their heels the green ground sturdily;
And some, descending, kept their balance well,
Unbalanc'd some came down, and boisterously fell.

The greeted earth, beneath the heavy thwacks
Of feet that centripetal down alight,
Of tingling elbows, bruised loins and backs,
Shakes passive, yet indignant of the weight,
For o'er her bosom, in their plaguy sacks,
Cumbrously roll, (a mortifying sight),
"Wreck'd burgher, knight, and laird, and clown, pellmell,
Prostrate, in grievance hard, too terrible to tell.

And aye they struggle at an effort strong,
To reinstate their feet upon the plain,
Half-elbowing, half-kneeing, sore and long
Abortively, with bitter sweat and pain,
Till, half-upraised, they to their forehead's wrong
Go with a buffet rapping down again,
And sprawl and flounce, and wallow on their backs,
Crying aloud for help t'uncord their dolorous sacks.

Meetings for the practice of these old Scottish games are still held annually. The Northern Meeting at Inverness continues several days, and is attended by noblemen and gentlemen from all parts of the country. The Braemar Gathering is a famous assembly ; it was for many years graced by the presence of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. A meeting for practising some of the national amusements is held triennially at Stirling. The annual celebration of Scottish games at Innerleithen formerly attracted a large concourse of people, including many literary celebrities.

Tennis and quoits are not peculiar to Scotland. During the seventeenth century, tennis courts were common. John Law of Lauriston, the celebrated financier, excelled at the game of tennis. A native of Alva, Stirlingshire, named Rennie, lately attained the championship of British quoit-players.

Hallowe'en was an important yearly celebration. On this evening (the-first-of-November), the emissaries of the Evil One were believed to wield unusual power, while warlocks and witches held a grand anniversary. The rites of Hallowe'en were various. A chief ceremonial was pulling np a cabbage stock with the eyes closed. The appearance of the stock fixed the character and description of the future helpmate. A large or small stock determined whether the future spouse would be tall or short, stout or slender. When earth adhered to the root, it betokened that there would be tocher or fortune. The taste of the stem indicated the temper of the future spouse. The stems were placed on the top of the door, and the Christian names of the parties proceeding afterwards into the house fixed in succession the names of the forthcoming helpmates.

Nuts were burned on the grate. A lad and lass were named to each particular nut laid in the fire ; and just as these burned quietly together, or started up from each other, so would be the course and issue of the courtship. An apple was eaten before a mirror, when, by the light of the candle, the face of the future partner was supposed to appear. A person stole out unperceived to the peat-stack, and sowing a handful of hempseed, called out—

Hemp-seed. I sow thee,
Hemp-seed, I sow thee,
And he who is my true love
Come after me and pu' me.

Then, from behind the left shoulder, stood forth the apparition of the future spouse, in the attitude of pulling the hemp. A sieve "full of nothing" thrown up in a dark barn, brought the figure of the future lover before the eyes. The white of an egg or melted lead was dropped into water. If a fine landscape appeared, the operator was destined to live in the country; if steeples and high houses met the eye, his lot was a town life.

The kiln charm is one of the most elaborate. A journey to the nearest kiln is performed solitarily and at night. The party who experiments must cast into the kiln-pit a clue of blue yarn. A clue is wound up from the old one, and towards the end some one is supposed to hold the thread. The question is put, "Wha hads?" (who holds) when an answer is expected from the kiln-pit, naming the future spouse.

In Lowland districts the superstitious rites of Hallowe'en have disappeared. The occasion is still observed in the Highlands, but after a different fashion. Bonfires are kindled at every dwelling, and torches blaze on the hill-sides. The latter were composed of ferns, gathered on the morning of the day. On being kindled, they were borne to great distances. Occasionally an entire hill-side displayed these moving lights, which produced, in conjunction with the bonfires, a singular effect. Sheriff Barclay informs us that, travelling thirty years ago from Dunkeld to Aberfeldy on Hallowe'en, he counted thirty fires blazing on the hill-tops, with the phantom figures of persons dancing round the flames ; while the distant sounds of a wild chorus imparted to the spectacle the aspect of unearthliness. During Her Majesty's residence at Balmoral, in the autumn of 1866, a Highland celebration of Hallowe'en was witnessed by the Queen and the Royal family.

The observances of Beltein [Bel is the name of the sun in Gaelic, tein in the same language signifying fire.] (the first day of May) have ceased. This day was dedicated, both in the Highlands and Lowlands, to peculiar observances. In Lowland districts the cowherds assembled in the fields or on the hill-sides, and proceeded to prepare a refection of boiled milk and eggs. They also ate a kind of cakes prepared for the occasion, having small lumps raised on the surface. In the evening they carried about lighted faggots, which they procured by the contributions of their employers.

In upland districts the ceremonies of Beltein were observed by adults. Herdsmen and shepherds cut a square trench, placing the turf in the middle; on that they kindled a fire of wood, on which they dressed a caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal, and milk. Some of the caudle was spilt on the ground by way of libation. Every member of the party then took a cake of oatmeal, on which were raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to a particular being; these being the supposed preservers of the herds, and their real destroyers. Having armed himself with the charmed bread, the devotee turned towards the fire, and breaking off each knob, dedicated them in succession to such votaries as the eagle and the fox, while he cast them into the flames. Martin, in his "Description of the Western Isles," records, that the natives of Barvas sent a man early on May-day morning to cross the Barvas river, to prevent any female crossing first on that day. Should this happen, it was held that salmon would not come up the river during the remainder of the season. The practice of gathering dew on May-day, long so popular among females of the humbler ranks, has nearly ceased. The Rocking was a meeting of neighbours at each other's houses during the moonlight of winter or spring; and to this females brought their rocks, or distaffs. It was attended with merry-making. The rejoicings of Yule, or Christmas, were allied to those of the sister kingdom. Hogmanay, the last day of the year, is attended with various observances. In certain districts the hinds, arrayed in masquerade dresses, proceed to the farmhouses, where they expect to be regaled with cakes and whisky. They are termed guizers. The following distich is sung: —

Hogmanay,
Trollalay!
Gie me o' your white bread,
I'll hae nane o' your grey.

On Hogmanay the children of the poor visit the dwellings of the more prosperous, and after singing some doggerel rhymes, receive donations of bread and money. Some of these rhymes are curious. In Aberdeenshire, the children sing,—

Eise up, gudewife, and sliak' yere feathers,
Dinna think that we are beggars,
For we're but bairns come tae play,
Eise up an gie's oor hogmanay.

Another version is common in southern districts : —

Get up, gudewife, an' binna sweir,
But deal your cakes while you are here,
For the time will come when ye'll be dead,
An' neither want for meal nor bread.

In Fife, the last day of the year is better known as Cake-day. The petition for cakes is the following couplet, more frequently said than sung :—

"Our feet are cauld, our shoon are thin,
Gie's our cakes, an' let us rin."

The evening of hogmanay is termed, in Fifeshire, Singineen, on account of an old belief that the bees on that evening sing in their hives. In Orkney, bands of working people proceed from house to house, singing in full chorus the following song:—

Peace be to this buirdly biggin'!
We're a' Queen Mary's men,
From the stethe f into the riggin';
And that's before our Lady.

This is gude New Year's Even nicht,
We're a' Queen Mary's men;
An' we've come here to claim our richt;
And that's before our Lady.

The morrow is gude New Year's Day;
We're a' Queen Mary's men;
An' we've come here to sport and play;
An' that's before our Lady.

The hindmost house that we came from—
We're a' Queen Mary's men—
We gat oat cake and sowens scone,
The three-lngged cog was standing fou';

We hope to get the same from you;
And that's before our Lady.
Gudewife, gae to your kebbock-creel—
We're a' Queen Mary's men,—

And see thou count the kebbocks weel;
And that's before our Lady.
Gudewife, gae to your gealding-vat—
We're a' Queen Mary's men,—

And let us drink till our lugs crack,
And fetch us ane an' fetch us twa,
And aye the merrier we'll gang awa';
And that's before our Lady.

Gudewife, gae to your butter-ark—
We're a' Queen Mary's men,—
An' fetch us here ten bismar-mark,
See that ye grip weel in the dark;
And that's before our Lady.

May a' your mares be weel to foal—
We're a' Queen Mary's men,—
And every ane be a staig foal;
And that's before our Lady.

May a' your kye be weel to calve—
We're a' Queen Mary's men,—
And every ane a queyoch calf;
And that's before our Lady.

May a' your ewes be weel to lamb—
We're a' Queen Mary's men,—
And every ane a ewe and a ram;
And tliat's before our Lady.

May a' your liens rin in a reel—
We're a Queen Mary's men,—
And every ane twal' at her heel;
And that's before our Lady.

Here we hae brocht our carrying-horse—
AVe're a' Queen Mary's men,—
An mony a curse licht on his corse;
He'll eat mair meat than we can get;
He'll drink mair drink than we can swink;
And that's before our Lady.

"At the conclusion of the song," writes Mr. Gorrie, "the minstrels were entertained with cakes and ale, and sometimes a smoked goose was set before the company. The singing men in starting were few in number, but every house visited sent forth fresh relays, and the chorus waxed in volume as the number of voices increased." "The original of Queen Mary's men," adds Mr. Gorrie, "were probably the friars, many of whom considered themselves as much privileged mendicants as the Edie Ochiltrees and king's beadsmen of other days. At all events, the Orcadians were good Catholics, addressing the Virgin as 'Our Lady of the Song.' The 'carrying-horse' mentioned in the last verse was the clown or jester of the party, who suffered himself to be beaten with knotted handkerchiefs, and received double rations as the reward of his folly."

A custom existed at Biggar of kindling a bonfire on the top of an eminence. This was called "burning the old year out." In his Tour to the Hebrides, Dr. Johnson remaiks :—

"At New Year's Eve, in the hall or castle of the laird, where at festal seasons there may be supposed to be a very numerous company, one man dresses himself in a cow's hide, upon which other men beat with sticks. He runs with all this noise round the house, which all the company quit in a counterfeited fright; the door is then shut. At New Year's Eve there is no great pleasure to be had out of doors in the Hebrides. They are sure soon to recover from their terror enough to solicit for readmission, which, for the honour of poetry, is not to be obtained save by repeating a verse, with which those who are knowing and provident take care to be provided."

On the last day of the year the members of families reassembled under the paternal roof. The evening was enlivened with toast and sentiment. Twelve o'clock was eagerly anticipated. At the first stroke of the hour a rush was made to the window, which was thrown open, to facilitate the egress of the old year. Before the clock had ceased striking, the gudeman opened the house-door, "to admit the new year." Then followed congratulations and embraces, health-drinking and shouting. Some seized the kettle containing the "hot pint," bent on being "first-foot" to their neighbours. It was a matter of concern to the parties visited that he who first entered was sonsie and well-favoured. Should a decrepit person, or one empty handed, be the first-foot, unhappy consequences were supposed to follow. In localities where draw-wells were used, gudewives crowded eagerly, on the first stroke of twelve o'clock, to procure " the cream of the well," as the first draught was designated.

The direction of the wind on New Year's Day Eve was supposed to indicate the condition of the coming year. Hence the following rhyme :—

"If New Year's Eve night-wind blow south,
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk, and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and storms there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north-east, flee it man and brute."

New Year's Day was associated with some peculiar superstitions. It was deemed uncanny to retain a dead body in the house on that day. Funerals were hastened to avoid the supposed peril. Highlanders burned juniper before their cattle. There were social festivities. In the first Statistical Account of Tillicoultry, Perthshire, in 1793, the parochial incumbent relates the following narrative:—A miner had been confined to bed for eighteen months by a severe attack of rheumatism. From a neighbourly feeling a number of miners met in his apartment on New Year's Day, that he might join in their festivities over some bottles of Alloa ale. The invalid drank of the ale so copiously that he became intoxicated. When his friends retired, he fell asleep. Next morning his rheumatic pains were gone; an abundant perspiration had eliminated the morbific element. He rose and proceeded to his work. He survived twenty years, and did not experience any return of his ailment.

The first Monday of the year is termed Handsel Monday. On that day the hinds and cottars on a farm breakfasted on fat brose [Brose prepared with suet.] in the farmer's kitchen. Handsel Monday is now claimed by farm-servants as a holiday. .

Old Candlemas, the thirteenth of February, was a yearly gala day among the young. There was a festival in every village school. In the morning the children proceeded to the school-room, clad in holiday attire. They were received by the schoolmaster with marks of consideration, and each placed in his hand a sum of money. The schoolmaster offered each pupil an orange, the eating of which constituted the first portion of the festival. The money handed to the schoolmaster was originally applied to an illumination of the school-room, and the occasion was styled " the Candlemas bleeze." This application of the fund was latterly abandoned, and the schoolmaster substituted a social entertainment to the young folks. During this celebration the boy and girl who had presented the greatest largesses were proclaimed king and queen; they received coronal bands on their heads, and were enthroned on a dais at the upper part of the room. Ceremonial introductions and state attentions to these royal personages, in which the schoolmaster joined, rendered the proceedings abundantly joyous. "In some schools," writes Mr. Sheriff Barclay, "the king and queen were carried by the undergraduates shoulder high, though not with much comfort and less grace." "On Candlemas Day," writes Mr. McDowall, "Latin scholars were required in their converse with each other, in and out of school, to speak exclusively in that tongue."

On St. Valentine's Day young people met at the houses of the more hospitable. The names of the blooming lasses of the hamlet were written on slips of paper, put into a bag, and drawn for by the lads. There was a similar proceeding with the names of young men, whom the lasses drew. The system of despatching love missives on St. Valentine's Day is still common.

Fastren's E'en, a corruption of Fasting Eve, corresponding with Shrove Tuesday, was distinguished by an unwonted consumption of eggs. In England and Ireland it is known as Pancake Day, in many parts of Scotland as Brose Day. The brose of Fastren's E'en was made of fat skimmings of broth and of eggs and oatmeal. At Stirling, the young folks procured eggs, which were discoloured in the morning with various devices, and in the evening boiled and eaten in the open fields. In the border towns the entire day was employed in the sport of the hand-ball. In East Lothian, on Fastren's E'en, married women challenged the spinsters to the game of football. The sport terminated at sunset, when, if the game was undecided, the ball was cut into equal parts, which were handed to each set of competitors. The proceedings at Kilmarnock on Fastren's E'en were sufficiently exciting. The fire-engines of the place were brought to the cross, and filled with water. An expert individual, selected to the work, threw the water in all directions, to the delight of the assembled gazers, many of whom were thoroughly drenched. Mr. John Ramsay, a native poet, has thus described the observance :—

"Out owre the heighest house's tap
He sent the torrent scrieven,
The curious crowd aye nearer crap
To see sic feats achieven
But scarcely had they thicken'd weel,
And got in trim for smilin',
When round the pipe gaed like an eel,
And made a pretty skailin'
'Mang them that day.

A foot-race followed, to which eclat was imparted by a procession of the magistrates and town council. The town drummer bore on a halbert the prizes to be awarded to the successful competitors—these consisting of a leathern purse, a blue bonnet, and a pair of breeches.

On the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday the boys of Lanark paraded the streets with a large willow tree decorated with daffodils, mezereon, and box tree.

The three last days of March were the borrowing days, so named in commemoration of the Israelites borrowing the property of the Egyptians. Superstitious persons refused to lend and were indisposed to borrow on these days. When the borroiving days were tempestuous, it was held that the season would be favourable; if fine, a bad summer was anticipated. All Fools Day, the 1st of April, was always observed. The "fool" was despatched for the loan of a blind sieve, in quest of which it was contrived he should make the round of the parish.

Pastimes and social customs were connected with particular localities. An exciting sport was fishing with geese. This species of diversion was practised by the old Earls of Menteith, on the Lake Menteith in Perthshire. A line with a baited hook was fastened to the leg of a goose, which was placed on the water of the lake. A boat containing a party of lords and ladies followed the bird. Soon a marauding pike took hold of the bait. A capture ensued. The splashing, floundering, wheeling of the combatants was overpowering as a source of merriment, till at length, amidst the clapping of hands and waving of handkerchiefs, the goose proved triumphant, and bore a prisoner to land, his sharp-toothed adversary.

At Kelso, on the summer holiday, a barbarous practice was enacted. A cat was placed in a barrel, half filled with soot, which was suspended on a cross beam between two high poles. The merrymaking fraternity, consisting of hinds, mechanics, and others, then rode on horseback between the poles, each striking the barrel with a large club, until it was fractured to pieces. The cat, emancipated from its horrid imprisonment, now fell to the ground half blinded with soot, when the players proceeded to kill the poor animal by laying upon it with their clubs. They then suspended a goose by the legs, each player in passing giving a wrench to its neck till the head was pulled off.

In minor burghs particular days continue to be set aside for especial jollity and merrymaking. At Queens-ferry, the day before the summer fair, a personage is arrayed in a mock suit of chain armour, and, being mounted on two staves, is paraded through the streets. Every citizen is invited to offer him a gift, and all the youths of the place follow in his train. His costume consists of a flannel vestment, which is stuck over with the flowers of the burr thistle. On the first of July, the memory of St. Serf, the tutelary saint of Culross, is honoured in that burgh by various rites of rejoicing. The Hiding of the Marches is an ancient burghal celebration. Most of the towns, to which the observance was attached, had received lands from the sovereign, and it was considered proper that the boundaries of these possessions should be determined annually by a procession. In the course of time many of these lands became alienated, yet the practice of encircling the ancient boundaries by an annual pageant was continued. The occasion led to a general holiday; the old rejoiced in its early associations, and the young relished the diversion.

The burghs of Lanark and Linlithgow preserve the practice of riding the marches, with all the ceremony of former times. The celebration at Lanark takes place on the last Wednesday of May, old style. A procession of boys is formed, preceded by a band of music. The procession stops at " the ducking-hole," on the border of the burgh lands, where those who have joined the diversions for the first time are compelled to wade in and touch a stone in the centre of the pond. They are tumbled over and drenched. The procession next marches to the plantations of Jerviswoode and Cleghorn, where the youths cut boughs from the birch trees, with which they proceed through the streets in boisterous triumph. They finally assemble at the Cross, where, under a statue reared to the memory of Wallace, they sing "Scots wha hae."

The juvenile celebration terminates at noon. The magistrates and town-council now appear at the Cross, attended by the town-drummer on horseback. A procession is formed, which, after inspecting the marches, enters the race-ground. There, amidst demonstrations of merriment from the assembled multitude, a race is run for a pair of spurs. The proceedings terminate in a banquet in the county-hall. The celebration at Linlithgow is not dissimilar. The Sovereign's health is drunk at the Cross. When the glasses are drained off they are tossed among the crowd. A procession is formed. The members of the corporation, seated in carriages, take the lead. Then follow the trades, bearing banners. The farm-servants of the neighbourhood, mounted, and displaying from their bonnets a profusion of ribands, bring up the rear. After a march of several miles the procession returns to the Cross, whence the different bodies proceed to their favourite taverns, to dedicate the evening to social mirth.

The ceremonial of riding the marches at Dumfries, in the seventeenth century, is thus described by Mr. McDowall, in his history of the burgh :—

"Every 1st of October the magistrates, town-council, incorporated trades, and other burgesses, assembled at the market-cross or White Sands, and, having been duly marshalled, proceeded with banners and music along the far-stretching line which enclosed the property of the burgh. Their course was first to the Castle, then down Friar's Vennel, and along the green sands to the Moat, at the head of the town. As a matter of course, the cavalcade was accompanied by a crowd of juveniles, who at this stage were treated with a scramble for apples—the town officers throwing among them the tempting fruit. The marchers then passed through the grounds of Langlands and Lochend, to the north side of St. Christopher's Chapel, and thence to the village of Stoop, at the race-ground, near which a race was engaged in for a saddle and pair of spurs. Thence they went eastwards and southwards, betwixt the town's property and the estates of Craigs and Netherwood, stopping at Kelton Well, at which point the superiority of the burgh terminates. Here, after being refreshed with something stronger than the produce of the well, the officials heard the roll of heritors read over by the town-clerk, a note being taken of all absentees, who were liable to a tine for not being present at the ceremony. This over, the procession returned to town. The Riding of the Marches is a usage of the past; though it has been performed several times during the present century."

There were sports and social observances peculiar to Lammas—the first of August. About a century ago this day was celebrated in a. singular manner by the herds of Mid-Lothian. Early in summer the herds associated themselves in bands. Each band agreed to build a tower in a central locality, which should serve as a place of rendezvous on Lammas. The tower was constructed of sods; it was usually four feet in diameter at the base, and tapered towards the top, which rose about eight feet from the ground. A hole was left in the centre for the insertion of a flag staff. The erection of the tower was commenced precisely one month before Lammas. A great point was made of its being preserved, during the process of construction, from the attacks of neighbouring communities, and one of the builders constantly kept watch. The watcher was provided with a horn, with which, in case of an assault, he sounded an alarm. When Lammas approached, each band selected a captain. He was entrusted with the duty of bearing the-standard (a towel borrowed from a neighbouring housewife), decorated with ribands, and attached to a pole. On the morning of the festival he displayed the flag on the summit of the tower. The assembled herds waited, under his leadership, to resist an assault of the enemy. They sent out scouts at intervals to ascertain whether any adversary was near. When danger was apprehended horns were sounded, and the little army marched forth to meet the enemy. At some engagements an hundred combatants would appear on each side. After a short struggle the stronger party yielded to the weaker; but there were instances in which such affrays terminated in bloodshed. If no opponent appeared before the hour of noon, the communities took down their standards and marched to the nearest village, where they concluded the day's pastimes by foot-races and other sports.

A celebration bearing some relation to the miracle plays of the Romish Church is observed annually at St. Andrews. The celebrants are students attending the United College of St. Salvator and St. Leonard during the fourth year. Kate Kennedy's day, for so the celebration is named, does not fall on a day specially denoted in the calendar, but is yearly fixed by the observers for the last week of February or the beginning of March. The celebrants meet at an appointed rendezvous at noon, when they array themselves in masquerade dresses. They next form a procession. The leading performer, designated Kate Kennedy, is clad in female attire, and mounted on horseback. Kate has a body-guard, attended by a mounted escort. A drummer precedes, discoursing martial music. Each member of the procession represents some historical character. The Pope is seldom absent. The more popular of the Stuart kings are represented. Roman citizens and Greek philosophers are occasionally present. The Irish peasant, talking blarney, and the St. Andrews fish-woman, with her creel, are conspicuous. The cavalcade first proceeds to the College quadrangle, where Kate receives a congratulatory address. They next visit the private dwellings of the 'different professors, who are cheered or hooted, according to their popularity or the want of it. The proceedings are terminated by a banquet. The origin of this celebration is involved in some doubt. It seems to combine the honours paid in Romish times to the memory of St. Catherine with a public recognition of the good services of the pious James Kennedy, bishop of the see, who founded St. Salvator's College in 1455. A bell was placed in the College steeple by Bishop Kennedy, who dedicated it to St. Catherine. This was recast the third time in 1686, when a procession attended its suspension. Probably the modern observance began at this period. The festival of St. Catherine is observed by the Romish Church on the 25th of November.

Anciently a procession took place at Edinburgh on the king's birthday, when every new-made burgess who presented himself, was initiated by being bumped against a stone. According to Mr. Slieriff Barclay, when march stones were placed, young boys were tied to the erection and chastised with birches, that they might possess a better remembrance of the position of the landmarks! The corporation of Selkirk, on admitting burgesses, compelled them, at a public entertainment, to lick a birse or bristle, which had previously been mouthed by all the members of the board. There were observances connected with the harvest-field. A farmer in Bendochy, Perthshire, kept a piper to discourse music to his reapers. As the performer was instructed to walk behind the slowest reaper, the plan was found useful as an excitement to diligence. There was a harvest-field practice peculiar to Fifeshire. Every gentleman who chanced to approach the field, was waited on by a feminine deputation, and requested to "remember shearers" drouth. This request for a gratuity might not be resisted. If signs of impatience were manifested, the visitor was surrounded by the whole band of reapers, tripped up, and caused to "ride the stang." This punishment usually consisted in the obnoxious individual being set astride a pole and carried aloft; it was inflicted on those who were accused of maltreating their wives. But "the stang" of the harvest-field was different. The person of the victim was impinged on the ground till a gratuity was conceded.

One practice of the harvest-field was "crying the kirn." When the last handful of grain was secured, the reapers proceeded to the nearest eminence, and by three cheers proclaimed that harvest was concluded. A bandster now collected the reaping hooks, and, taking them by the points, threw them upward; the direction of the falling hook was supposed to indicate the direction in which the reaper, to whom it belonged, was to be employed next harvest. If a hook broke in falling, the early death of its owner was predicted. When the point of a hook sank into the soil, the party possessing it received an augury of marriage. At the close of harvest a substantial supper is provided by the farmer for his hinds and reapers. This is termed the kirn or maiden feast. A fiddler discourses music, and eating, drinking, and dancing are carried on till morning.

Juvenile amusements abounded. "The king's come," a drawing-room game, was popular; old and young engaged in it. Seats were placed round the apartment, to accommodate every member of the party save one. A sort of lot determined the individual who should remain unseated. All the others having seated themselves, the individual left standing took his position in the centre of the group. He called out "Change seats! change seats!" then added, "The king's come," when all rose up and changed their seats. The sport consisted in the bustle occasioned by every one in the company endeavouring to avoid becoming the unfortunate one who should remain unseated.

Ilurly-hawky is an old sport. It consisted in one boy dragging another along the sloping side of a hill or steep place; hurly was the performer or whirler, while hawlry represented the youth who was dragged about. An eminence at Stirling is known as Hurly-liawhj. There the youthful James VI. prosecuted this juvenile diversion.

The game of "Scots and English," or Set-a-foot, was common among the border youths. It has been described by a writer in Notes and Queries* in these words :—

"It consisted of a heroic contention, imbued with all the nationality of still older days. The signal for war was chaunted as by bards :—

Set a foot on Scotch ground,
English, if ye dare.

And forthwith the two bodies of eight, ten, twelve, and even more schoolboys, were arranged on either side, the one representing the Scotch and the other the English forces; and be it said, in honour of these representations, they fought for the victory of their accepted cause as earnestly as if the battle were real. . . The field was thus ordered:—The green sward, divided by any natural hollow, was chosen if possible; if not, a conventional line was drawn, and the combatants confronted each other across the imaginary border. In a heap, perhaps a hundred or two hundred yards behind each, was piled a booty of hats, coats, vests, and other clothing, and chattels, which stood in the stead of property to be harried, or cattle to be lifted. The game was played by making raids to seize and carry off these deposits, as whenever either store was exhausted, the nationality that guarded it was beaten. The races and the struggles to achieve this victory were full of excitement. Sometimes one swift of foot would rush alone into the exploit, sometimes two or three, to distract the adversary, without leaving their own side defenceless or exposed to inroad. Then the chase; the escape of the invader with his plunder; or his being obliged to throw it down for personal safety ; or his being captured and sent back with it, there to stand, chapfallen and taunted, until one of his comrades should run in and touch him, when his restoration to the ranks was the result, though perhaps his ransomer was made prisoner in his stead. And so the war was carried on as long as a rag was left to the pillager; and it was a sight to see occasionally, near the close, the awful condition of the losing side of the combatants. Almost every stitch of raiment was gradually devoted to the exigences of the battle, and deposit after deposit was harried, till every article, shoes, stockings, braces, &c, was "won away,'' and many of their discomfited wearers at last succumbed to their fate, with nothing to cover their nakedness but trousers and shirt."

The youth of Glasgow had a game called smuggling the geg. Two parties were chosen by lot; they were of equal number; one was called outs and the other ins. The outs went out from the goal, the ins remained. The outs deposited something, such as a penknife ; they then concealed themselves, and called "Smugglers." The ins gave pursuit, and if the holder of the geg or deposit was taken, the parties exchanged places. Canlie is still in lively exercise. From the players one is selected to act as Canlie. A space of ground is assigned as his territory, into which, if any of the other boys enter, and be caught by Canlie, he is obliged to take Canlie s place. Hy-spy is an old sport. There is a place fixed on as a den. The players are divided into ins and outs, the latter being entitled to hide themselves. After effecting their concealment, they shout Hy-spy. The ins endeavour to lay hold on the outs before they reach the den. Cat i' the hole is a Fifeshire sport. Holes are made in the ground for each player save one. He who is excepted stands at some distance, holding a ball; the other boys stand by their holes, each armed with a short stick. When the ball-holder makes a signal, all change holes, each running to his neighbour's hole and putting his stick in it. It is the object of the ball-holder to anticipate some of the players by putting his ball into an empty hole. If he succeeds, the boy who has not got his stick into the hole to which he had run is put out, and becomes ball-holder. When the stick or cat is in the hole, the ball may not be put into it.

Among the corn-yard games was Barley-bracks. A corn-stack was fixed on as a goal; here a boy remained to seize the rest. When all had run out of sight, he set off to seize them. He who was captured could not rejoin his associates, but was detained to assist his captor in securing the others. When all were captured the game was concluded, and he who was seized first was bound to act as captor in the next game.

Keenie-oam is a game common among the boys of the counties of Perth and Fife. One selected by lot places his head against a wall, and further guards himself against seeing by covering his face with his hands. The rest of the party run off to conceal themselves. The last who disappears calls out Keenie-oam. The boy who has had his face against the wall then proceeds to search for his hidden companions. The first he lays hold on takes his place in the next game. Shue-gled-wylie is a game in which the strongest acts as the gled or kite, and the next in strength as the mother of a brood of birds, those under her protection remaining behind her, one holding by the back of the other. The gled tries to seize the last, while the mother cries shue, shue, and endeavours, with extended arms, to ward him off. Should the gled catch all the birds he wins the game.

Through the needle ee was a very popular amusement. The children formed into a circle, each taking one of his neighbours by the hand with extended arms. The leader now passed under the arms of every second person, backward and forward, the rest following, while all repeated a rhyme with a certain musical cadence. Bannet-pie or HecMebimie is a punishment inflicted on those who break the rules of a game. The boys form themselves into two files, standing face to face, the intervening space being only sufficient to enable the offender to pass. Through this narrow lane he is compelled to proceed, with his face bent down to his knees, while the boys belabour him on the back with their bonnets.

As a lottery for regulating games the following lines are repeated:—

One-erie, two-erie. tickerie seven,
Alibi, crackerie, ten or eleven,
Pin, pan, muskidan,
Tweedle-uni, twaddle-um, twenty-one.

The Jingo-ring is a game played among girls. They join hands, form in a circle, and move slowly round one of their number, who, armed with a handkerchief, gives a stroke to each in turn. In their gyrations they sing the following rhyme :—

Here we go by jingo-ring,
By jingo-ring, by jingo-ring,
Here we go by jingo-ring,
And round about Mary Matan' sy.

The game was formerly played at Edinburgh, and among the girls of Tweeddale and Fife. It is still practised at Glasgow and in the western counties. At the end of the verse the players bend down, and on rising resume the song and movement without variation. The game is common among girls in the Netherlands, who, in practising it, surround and kneel to a figure of the Virgin. The words "Matan' sy" in the Scottish rhyme are clearly an abbreviation of matins say, and would assign the origin of the recreation to pre-Reformation times.

Many of the old Scottish household games are passing away. Southern amusements have been introduced, both in the domestic circle and on the public playground. Croquet, unknown to our ancestors, has become a universal pastime. The bowling-green is constructed and resorted to at every hamlet.


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