Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Social Life in Scotland
Chapter XIV. - Games and Pastimes


Common to the early inhabitants of every country dancing was among the ancient Scots a favourite pastime. In evident allusion to the exercise Sir William Wallace, after arranging the position of his troops oil the field of Falkirk, called out, "I have brocht ye to the ring; dance gif ye can." And in the opening lines of his poem of "Chrystis Kirk," James I. refers to dancing as a prevailing recreation. He writes:

"Was nevir in Scotland heard nor sene,
Sic dancing nor deray,
Nouthir at Falkland on the Grene,
Nor Peebles at the Play."

In the ballad of "Colkelbie Sow," written before the age of Dunbar, are named upwards of twenty native dances, while a further catalogue of dances popular in the middle of the sixteenth century is presented in the Complaynt of Scotland. ["Select Remains of Ancient Popular Poetry in Scotland." edited by David Laing, 1822, 4to, part first, 11. 296-376; "The Complaynt of Scotland," edited by J. A. R. Murray, 1872, p. 66.]

Moorish or Morris dances were common at the court of James IV., the performers being usually Spaniards. But at Epiphany 1494, native Morris dancers, clad in a special livery, performed in the royal presence. Each Morris dancer bore upon his dress a number of small bells, which played chimes during his evolutions. By the Glover Incorporation of Perth a Norris dancer's costume has been preserved. The following account of it forms the subject of a note appended by Sir Walter Scott to his "Fair Maid of Perth":-

"This curious vestment is made of fawn-coloured silk, in the form of a tunic, with trappings of green 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 combine 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 intervals between the various pieces. The performer could thus produce, if not a tune, at least a pleas. lug and musical chime, according as lie regulated with skill the movements of his body."

Queen Mary introduced dances from France, of which, according to contemporary writers, the practice was not quite seemly. In dancing she incautiously indulged, while her people were disposed to weep; on the day when in March 1562 tidings of the massacre of the Protestants at Vassy reached Edinburgh, she continued a ball at Holyrood. John Knox denounced her conduct on the following Sunday, and when called upon to answer for his language he was bold enough to say that her Majesty "was dancing like the Philistines for the pleasure taken in the destruction of God's people."

Mainly on account of the inopportune (Minces of Queen Mary's Court, and the levities with which these were accompanied, the Scottish Reformers regarded "promiscuous dancing" as a moral lesion or violation of order. They accordingly punished by fine or exposure on the pillory, those who danced at feasts or on public occasions. Even in our own times dancers at private assemblies, have in isolated districts been in the ecclesiastical courts exposed to censure. For in 1863, a farmer at North Knapdale was by his pastor, a clergyman of the Free Church, refused Church membership, since by an act of dancing, he was held to have been chargeable with "scandal, flagrant inconsistency, and bitter provocation against the Lord."

Opposition to dancing by the Presbyterian clergy somewhat restrained the practice, but did not wholly subdue it. In the games declared "lawful to he observed," set forth in King James's "Book of Sports" issued in 1618, dancing is named. About a century later, that is in 17 23, a weekly dancing assembly was established at Edinburgh, and was largely patronized. In 1728, the Town Council of Glasgow appointed a dancing-master, with a salary of £20, to familiarize the inhabitants with the art.

Killie-kallum, or the sword-dance, has long been practised in the Highlands. According to Olaus Magnus, it was common among the Norwegians; they derived it, he remarks, from the inhabitants of Orkney and Shetland.

Stage-playing may be traced to an early date. In the Exchequer Accounts rendered at Scone in 1264, there is a payment of £16, 2s. 9d. for "the king's charges in play." On the 11th December 1366, Gilbert Armstrong, steward of the king's household, made payment of ten pounds to "the stage-players at Inchmurdoch." And on the 8th May 1399, in order to the amusement of the lords auditors, the Chamberlain paid 10s. to a minstrel, and 20s. to other players."

Famous as a musician and a promoter of sports and manly exercises, James I. warmly encouraged the histrionic art. In an account to the Exchequer rendered at Linlithgow on the 5th June 1434, there is a payment of £5, 1s. 6d. to the king's stage-players in terms of his "written mandate." And in an Exchequer account produced at Edinburgh on the 5th September 1436, the sum of £18 is assigned as the expenses of John Turing, burgess of Edinburgh, for conducting three stage-players from Bruges to Scotland. Turing received a further sum of £32 for bringing into the country four other players for the king's service, the account being under his seal vouched by Martin Vanartyne, one of the players. In the same account is included a charge against the king of £33, 6s. for vestments to the stage-players with their silver decorations, also for two mantles of sable fur which had been imported.

In promoting theatricals James II. was equally ardent with his royal father. For performing at his coronation Martin the player was on the 14th July 1438 paid £8, 10s. Robert Mackye and Adam Rede, the royal stage-players, were, on the 13th July 1442, paid the sum of 10, 15s. 6d. in pence and penny worths  Out of the custom of Perth, on the 3d July 1447, James II. granted to Robert Mackgye, Mark Trumpats, and Adam Rede, his servitors and jesters, an allowance of £20; the payment was continued yearly. By the chamberlain was paid on the 5th July 1447 the sum of £7, 13s. 8d. for white woollen cloth used in dresses to the players, who had at the feast of Christmas performed before the king at Stirling. On the 16th September of the following year the account for the royal revels of the preceding Christmas was discharged; it included £4, 17s. for musical instruments, and £11, 17s. 1d. for the fancy woollen dresses of the players, and for dyeing them in various colours. In the reign of James III. Adam Rede was on the 27th July 1462 paid £3, 6s. 8d., being his half-year's fee as the king's player.

Among the sports which he vigorously promoted James IV. included stage plays. In 1488, the year of his succession, there occurs in the Treasurer's accounts the following entry: "To the king himself to play in Perth xxth lib. vij s." In the following year Patrick Johnson and his fellows, who played to the king at Linlithgow, also to the Spanish ambassador, were recompensed, as were certain Frenchmen who played before the king at Dundee. In August 1503, subsequent to his marriage, James IV. entertained his court by the performances of certain English comedians. To James IV. Sir David Lyndsay was in his youth a master of revels; he received on the 12th October 1500 the sum of £3, 4s. for "blue and yellow taffeties," to furnish him with a coat wherein lie might "play" at Holyrood for the gratification of the Court.

Prior to the reign of James V. stage-playing was simply pantomimic. And the diversions enacted in June 1538 in honour of the king's marriage to Mary of Guise were of a like character. The first performance of the articulate drama took place on the 6th January 1539-60, when Sir David Lyndsay produced at Linlithgow his "Satyre of the Three Estates." In representing this dramatic satire (which was reproduced at Edinburgh and Cupar-Fife), Lyndsay provided "interludes," or a pantomimic display for the common people during the intervals between the acts, when the usual audiences withdrew.

In adopting the stage as an arena on which to expose to popular contempt the corrupt manners and oppressive acts of the Romish priesthood, Sir David Lyndsay used against them a weapon fabricated by their order. The drama was originated by the Church. During the sixth century was founded in Italy the brotherhood of Gonfalone, which in silent processions represented the sufferings of the Redeemer. Miracle Plays were first performed in the fourteenth century when a company of pilgrims from Palestine were in Paris incorporated as the "Fraternity of the Passion." What prevailed in one Catholic centre was imitated in another. Holy Plays or Mysteries were in Scottish Churches performed during the hours of worship, while as performers were represented such allegorical characters as "sin," "faith," "penance," "charity," and "death." The performers were usually strolling players, who in practising religious rites wore the same habits which they displayed in their secular merry-making. Moralities were latterly performed only on the high festivals, which consequently were named play-days, while the proceedings, utterly dissociated from religion, resembled those of the ancient Saturnalia or modern Carnival. An Abbot of Unreason was annually elected by every community, who under a penalty was bound to accept office. To this functionary was latterly given the name of Robin Hood, as his acts were supposed to resemble those of the popular bandit of Sherwood. On the 24th April 1537 the Town Council of Haddington issued the following edict:-

"The quhilk day the Sys delyueris that George Rychartson sall pa to the tressaurer 20s at Whitsonday next heir aftir, and othyr 20s at zoull next thair aftir, quhilk 40s George wes awand the town becaus he would not be Abbot of Unreason."

On the 8th April 1539 the same Town Council deliberated as to whether "thai thocht expedient till haif ane Abbot of Unreason this yeir or not." A division ensued, much ardour being evinced on both sides. By a majority it was resolved to have an abbot, while any burgess chosen to the office, and who refused acceptance, was to be amerced in forty shillings. Thomas Ponton was chosen, but it is afterwards recorded that both he and another townsman who had been appointed substitute had "forsakyn the abbot-chyp," and had each paid his penalty. When on the 6th -May 1555 Robert Marro was "creat burges" of Peebles, he "mad his aith as in vse is and find his hand and his land . . . to pay his burges silver to in lord Robine Hude." At length the leaders of the popular sports became openly inimical both to the doctrines of the Church and the persons of the clergy. In 1547 Cardinal Beaton, having excommunicated for contumacy the Lord Borthwick, despatched to the curate of that parish an apparitor or macer with the injunction that forthwith in his place of worship the archiepiscopal anathema should be made public. As the apparitor entered the church he was followed by the Abbot of Unreason, who, forcibly ejecting him from the structure, dragged him to a mill-pond and there plunged him in the water. Conducted back to church the archbishop's missive was in his presence torn to pieces, and the contents cast into a bowl of wine he was compelled to swallow. Through such acts of violence the existence of an Abbot of Unreason became a public scandal, and accordingly in 1555 a statute was passed in these words:—

"It is statute and ordanit that in all tymes cumming no maner of persoune be chosen Robert Hude nor Lytell Johne, Abbot of Vnressoun Quenis of Maij, nor vtherwyse, nouther in burgh nor to landwart in ony tyme to cum. And gif ony Prouest, Baillies, counsell, and communitie chesis sic ane Personage . . . . Within burgh, the chesaris of sic sall tyne thair fredome for the space of fyue yeiris, and vtherwyse salbe punist at the Quenis grace will, and the acceptar of sic lyke office, salbe banist furth of the Realme. And gif ony sic persounes .... bin chosen outwith Burgh and vthers landwart townis, the chesaris sail pay to our Soverain Lady x pundis and thair personnes put in waird, thair to remain during the Quenis grace plesoure."

Robin Hood plays, as the annual revels of the Abbot of Unreason came to be designated, were prohibited by the Reformers. On the 21st June 1567, the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Edinburgh subjected James Gillian to trial for playing Robin Hood, with the result that he was condemned to execution. Dreading a popular outbreak, the deacons of the trades entreated the magistrates, also John Knox, as minister of the parish, to stay the proceedings. As these declined to interfere, the craftsmen arose in insurrection, broke down the gibbet, shut up the magistrates in a lawyer's office, and breaking open the tolbooth, rescued Gillian and the other prisoners. Having attained their liberty, the magistrates assailed the mob, who with firearms violently resisted. At length the constable of the castle reconciled the belligerents, the magistrates consenting to allow those who had engaged in the disturbance to return to their employments. Knox, who details the circumstances, remarks that many persons were, for sharing in the tumult, exposed to censure and discipline.

The festival of Corpus Christi, on the second Thursday after Whitsunday, continued to be observed at Perth long after the Reformation. In the Kirk-session Records, under July 1577, we are informed that

"Mr John Row, minister, and the elders of the Church at Perth, regretted heavily that certain inhabitants of the town had played Corpus Christi play upon Thursday, the sixth day of June, which was -wont to be called Corpus Christi day; that this has been done contrary to the command of the civil magistrate, and also contrary to the minister's command, which he had intimated from the pulpit; that thereby the whole town had been dishonoured, and great offence given to the Church of God, for that the said play was idolatrous and superstitious."

The Kirksession further issued a declaration as to the doctrinal errors implied in the observance.

The Play of St Obert, patron of the batters or bakers, was at Perth yearly celebrated on the 10th of December in a procession attended with torches and by a band of musicians. One of the performers impersonated the Devil, and all wore masquerade dresses. A horse was led in the procession, with its hoofs enclosed in men's shoes. By imprisoning the promoters the Kirksession succeeded in checking the observance.

Uncompromising in their efforts to prevent processions and arrest pantomimic or other performances which tended to perpetuate Romish error, the reformed clergy, conscious that the popular acceptance of the Protestant faith was largely due to that formidable satire with which Sir David Lyndsay had in his plays attacked the elder system, were willing to tolerate other dramatic representations. On the 21st July 1574 the Kirksession of St Andrews granted license to Mr Patrick Auchinleck, minister at Balmerino to play the comedy -mentioned in St Luke's Evangel of the Forlorn Son upon Sunday the first day of August next to come. But the Session desired, first, the play to be revised by my Lord Rector, Minister, Mr John Rutherford, provost of St Salvator's College, and Mr James Wilkie, principal of St Leonard's College, and if they find no fault therewith, the same to be played upon the said Sunday the 1st of August, so that playing thereof be no occasion to withdraw the people from hearing of the preaching at the hour appointed, as well after noon as before noon."

In March 1574-5 the General Assembly prohibited "clerk plays " and "comedies and tragedies made of the canonical scriptures both on Sabbath and other days," but permitted "comedies, tragedies, and other profane plays not made upon authentic parts of scripture" on condition that these were submitted for revision and performed on workdays only. In terms of this deliverance the Kirksession of Perth in June 1589 granted leave to a strolling company to represent a comedy in the city on condition that "no swearing, banning, nor use scurrility shall be spoken;" and further, that "nothing shall be added to what is in the register of the play itself." Ere the close of the century dramas, both secular and religious, were by the Church wholly disallowed.

By their determination to totally suppress the drama, the clergy found themselves in strong collision with the royal authority. In October 1599 a body of players, known as Fletcher and Martin's company of London, visited Edinburgh, and at once secured the royal license to conduct their performances, also a warrant directing the magistrates to forthwith provide them with suitable accommodation. Informed of the contemplated procedure, the four Kirksessions of the city parishes issued a joint ordinance denouncing " the unruly and immodest behaviour of the stage-players," and menacing with censure all who should witness their performances. On this resolution being published from the several pulpits, the Privy Council meet at Holyroodhouse, and gave injunction "be oppin proclamation at the mercate croce," that "within thrie houris," and "under pane of rebellion," the several kirksessions should recall their decree. A compromise was arranged, for at a meeting of the Privy Council, held on the 10th November, it was found that the "foure Sessions" had been deceived by "some sinister and wrongous reports," and that being "bettir acivisit," they had "cassit, annullit, and dischargit thair former act," and allowed "their flocks to fairly injoy the benefits of his Majesteis libertie." It has been held, but on insufficient authority, that Shakespeare was one of the performers whom the Kirksessions had prohibited.

From the departure of James VI. to London in 1603 till the Restoration, Scottish theatrical entertainments were conducted only by the young and in the public schools. But in 1673 two Englishmen, Edward and James Fountain, obtained a patent as Masters of Revels, and which, they maintained, gave them authority to legally pursue all persons who conducted public recreations apart from their sanction. In a memorial to the Privy Council, presented on the 24th July 1679, they refer to "the playhouse," which they had been "at great charge in erecting." For a time the Privy Council favoured their claims, but when they proceeded to lay impost of every bowling-green and place of dancing, and of public recreation throughout the kingdom, their pretensions were clisallowed. In 1680 the Duke and Duchess of York brought to Holy-roodhouse a company of players from London. They performed in the Tennis Court, the Duke and his court giving frequent attendance. When after an interval of thirty-five years dramatic entertainments in the Tennis Court were renewed, the proceeding was denounced by the Presbytery. But the censure failed. To two plays, "The Orphan" and "Cheats of Scapin," produced at Edinburgh in 1719, Allan Ramsay composed a prologue. Not long afterwards Signora Violante, an Italian lady, performed in the city with marked success. She was in 1726 followed by Anthony Aston, a noted comedian, who, favoured by Allan Ramsay, obtained the patronage of the Lords of Session and of other leading citizens. Owing to certain irregularities, Aston was afterwards opposed by the Presbytery and by the Society of High Constables, while the magistrates prohibited his longer performing within the city. Withdrawing to Glasgow in 1728, he there encountered such formidable hostilities as to induce his retirement.

At Edinburgh, in 1733, a body of players, called "the Edinburgh Company," acted successfully at the Tailors' Hall in the Cowgate; they afterwards performed at Dundee, Montrose, and Aberdeen.

A zealous promoter of the drama, Allan Ramsay constructed in 1736 a theatre at Carrubber's Close, investing in the concern the bulk of his savings. Opened on the 8th November, Ramsay's Theatre was by a portion of the citizens warmly patronized, but at the close of the season was passed an Act (10 Geo. II. chap. 28) whereby play-acting without the sanction of the Sovereign or of the Lord Chamberlain was strictly prohibited. The good-natured but nearly impoverished poet, in a rhyming epistle to the Lord President Forbes, made complaint, but was nevertheless allowed without assistance to sustain his loss.

In 1746-7 was erected in St John's Street, Canon-gate, a new place of amusement. Intended for dramatic performances, the statutory provision respecting a license was avoided by the announcement that the entertainments were "concerts of musick, with a play between the acts." Among the performers were Digges and Mrs Bellamy, whose remarkable dramatic talents served to arrest and sustain the public interest. In the Canongate 'Theatre was, on the 14th December 1756, produced the tragedy of "Douglas," an event which, while advancing the credit of the Edinburgh stage, proved in the ecclesiastical atmosphere as a thunder cloud. The author, John Home, minister of Athelstaneford, was as one guilty of unclerical conduct cited to appear before the Presbytery of Haddington, and to avoid high censure met the summons by resignation. Yet the play of "Douglas" was elevating in tone and in sentiment innocuous.

The Canon ;ate Theatre was accidentally burned. On its :._ to a new structure with a license was on the 9th December 1767 publicly opened, the prologue spoken on the occasion being composed by the celebrated James Boswell. In 17 69 was founded the Theatre Royal, on the site of the present General Post-Office. 'There, on Saturday the 22d May 1784, Mrs Siddons in the part of Belvidere, first appeared before a Scottish audience. The General Assembly was in sitting, and many of the members gave their attendance. The great actress played ten evenings, deriving the sum of £967, 7s. 7d. in recompense of her art. ["History of the Scottish Stage," by John Jackson, Edin., 1783, 8vo, p. 129.]

Land Meer Processions, or Riding of the Marches, took origin at a period when the boundaries of lands and commons were determined by boulders and other moveable fences, the exact position of which it was important to mark recurrently. A proceeding, which arose from necessity, continued in sport. At the commencement of the present century nearly all the minor burghs held an annual march-riding. At Dumfries the riding was enacted on the 1st of October, when the Magistrates, the Town Council, and Incorporated Trades assembled at the Cross and therefrom proceeded with banners and music along the line of the burgh estate. At a particular point the cavalcade paused, when a scramble by the young for apples and sweetmeats intensified the diversion. At the close of the riding the Corporation retired to their offices to fine absentees. At Haddington the Magistrates and Town Council remarked impediments and ordered their removal. They were afterwards refreshed by a dish of cockle pie. In the march rides of Hawick a standard was carried by the senior bailie. In certain burghs march stones were placed, and young boys were tied to them and birdied so that in after life they might better remember the landmarks. When on the last Wednesday of May the riding of the marches was practised at Lanark there was a morning procession of boys bearing tree branches. The procession stopped at the clucking hole, where those who had joined for the first time were compelled to wade in and touch a stone in the centre, when they were turned over and drenched.

At Culross on the 1st of July the memory of St Serf, the tutelary saint of the place, is commemorated by a juvenile procession. A procession of College students is held at St Andrews. By Bishop James Kennedy was in 1456 erected St Salvator's College, when lie placed in the steeple a bell dedicated to St Catherine. On being recast in 1681 a procession attended the suspension, while the bell was named in Honour of the bishop and the saint. At each celebration a personage, styled Kate Kennedy, is mounted on Horseback attended by an escort. Each one concerned in the procession impersonates a character; there are Greek philosophers, Roman senators, and eminent Scottish ecclesiastics and poets. The proceedings are enhanced by music and closed by a banquet.

In allusion to the holiday processions of Ayrshire, Professor Walker, in his MS. "Life of a Manse Household in 1780," writes:

Twice a year we (the children of Dundonald Manse) were all huddled into a crazy cart and conducted to a fair at Irvine to see a procession of tailors and weavers or an equestrian parade of coal carters, and a race run by their lumpish scarecrow horses. Long before the day of their magnificence arrived our imaginations were dwelling on its expected delights, and on the important morning we used to shift on each other, while yet in bed, the task of seeing if the sun shone through the chinks of the window shutters, none choosing to be the announcer of a heart-breaking disappointment by reporting rain, which must, as we well knew, involve our absence from the anticipated festival. On the spectacle itself we gazed with a transport as genuine as that of any Greek at the Olympic games, or of any Roman who viewed the triumph of a Seipio or an Ĉmilius."

The first of January, though the festival of the circumcision in the Roman Church, was not in pre-Reformation times associated with any special rites. Hence Scottish Reformers, while subjecting to discipline those who observed Christmas, were willing that New Year's Day should he appropriated to social pleasures. Towards the closing hour of the 31st December each family prepared a hot pint or wassail bowl of which all the members might drink to each other's prosperity as the new year began. Hot pint usually consisted of a mixture of spiced and sweetened ale with an infusion of whisky. Along with the drinking of the hot pint was associated the practice of first foot, or a neighbourly greeting. After the year had commenced each one hastened to his neighbour's house bearing a small gift; it was deemed "unlucky" to enter a dwelling "empty-handed."

Gift-bestowing on the morning of New Year's Day obtained generally. On the first of January 1489 the Treasurer presented to James IV. a personal "offerrande"; he also handed to the king, while still in bed, ten angellis, that is £12, that he might therewith make gifts to his royal household. The existence of a custom resembling first-foot is, in the Treasurer's Account, denoted by the following entry:-

"The x. of Januare [1496] giffin to Sandi Ellem, Patrick Homes man, that brocht the tithingis to the King of the first bargane in the new yore, five Scottis crovnis, ane vnicorne and half a ridare; summa £4, 16s. 2d.

With New Year's Day were, in some portions of the Highlands, associated peculiar rites. At Strathdown the junior anointed in bed the elder members of the household with water, which the evening before had been silently drawn from "the dead and living ford." Thereafter they kindled in each room, after closing the chimneys, Lunches of juniper. These rites, the latter attended with much discomfort, were held to ward off pestilence and sorcery.

The direction of the wind on New Year's Day Eve was supposed to rule the weather during the approaching year. Hence the 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.

The first Monday of the year, old style, known as Handsel Monday is, in respect of a rural holiday, the equivalent of the English Christmas. Farm labourers, relieved from their labours, are made free to join in the family gatherings, usual on that day, in their paternal homes. On Handsel Monday are bestowed the annual largesses to porters and parcel deliverers, and to all who have ministered to household convenience.

Candlemas, the 2d of February, held sacred by members of the Roman Church as the Purification of the Virgin, is in its ritual, derived from practices which obtained in Druidic worship. By the Church of Rome, on occasion of the festival, candles, blessed by the clergy, were carried burning in a procession. For offerings at Candlemas 1473, James III. and his queen received from the Treasurer "two crownis."  For the same purpose, two crowns were at Candlemas 1489, 1494 and 1495 handed to James IV.

During the eighteenth century Candlemas, old style, that is, the 13th of February, was a gala-day among the young. In every parish school was held a celebration. r11he children proceeded to the schoolroom in their holiday attire, while the schoolmaster, seated in his desk, welcomed their approach with kindly words. Each in turn tendered a monetary offering, commonly sixpence, the children of the opulent bestowing half-crowns. The boy and girl who contributed the largest gifts became king and queen, and as such were, on a dais in the upper part of the schoolroom, ceremoniously crowned. A procession was enacted, when the mimic sovereigns were borne on a throne formed by crossed hands. A fire of furze and loose timber kindled in the evening was styled the Candlemas bleeze. In certain schools the king and queen held an evening reception, the schoolmaster, as master of ceremonies, presenting to the mimic sovereigns his more meritorious pupils. At Dumfries on occasion of the Candlemas celebration, those at the grammar-school studying Latin were expected to talk in that language only.

Associated with Candlemas is the popular rhyme:

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter's to come and mair
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half o' winter's gane at Yule."

Shrove Tuesday is so called from being anciently associated with priestly absolution. As the clay immediately precedes the commencement of Lent, it was in Scotland only known as Fastern's E'en, that is, Fasting Eve. The modes of observance varied. At Stirling young persons procured eggs, which in the morning they discoloured with various devices and in the evening boiled and ate in the fields. The inhabitants of the Border towns devoted the day to the sport of hand-ball To games of foot-ball on Fastern's E'en the married women of East Lothian challenged the spinsters of their neighbourhood. The burgesses of Kilmarnock observed the festival by dragging their fire-engines to the cross, and after filling them with water, casting it about so as to drench the unwary.

On Shrove Tuesday was indulged the practice of cock-fighting. This most inhuman and barbarous sport was in 1681 brought into Scotland by the Duke of York. In 1683 a cockpit was erected at Leith, and there did the sport become so popular that in 1704 it was prohibited by the Town Council of Edinburgh as an impediment to business. The Leith cock-fight was at length restricted to one day yearly. From an early period of the eighteenth century till its close, cock-fighting on Fastern's E'en was an ordinary pastime. To the village schoolroom every youth bore a cock reared for his special use. At the conflict the schoolmaster presided, the craven birds or "fugies" which would not fight, also those that fell, being assigned to him as perquisites. Schoolroom dues were also payable to him. Betting was allowed, but while few profited, the spectators were rendered coarse in feeling and the young hardened to suffering. John Grub, schoolmaster of Wemyss in Fife, was the first of his order to condemn the practices of the cockpit. He composed a disputation which he caused his pupils to repeat in presence of their parents, in which the arguments for and against the sport were fairly stated. He showed in conclusion that parents unfettered by custom would pay as generously for a lettered coin-petition among their sons as for obtaining their distinction in the cockpit. The schoolmaster of Wemyss flourished in 1748, but cock-fighting continued about eighty years later. Early in the century it prevailed among the gentry of eastern Fifeshire. About the year 1810 Captain Mason of Brighton boarded his fighting-cocks with the clergy and farmers. About the same period Professor John Wilson, afterwards of Edinburgh, then in Oxford, entered with ardour into the practice of a sport, which in his maturer years he must have strongly condemned. For birds to be used in the cockpit at Elleray he paid five and six pounds.

In the northern Highlands on Fastern's E'en was supped a species of prose made of the skimmings of broth, oatmeal, and eggs. And during night young persons had placed under their pillows a cake styled Bannich Bruader; it was discoloured by soot, and baked with a portion of the first egg laid by a fowl.

On St Valentine's Eve the young assembled in the several villages. The names of the blooming maidens of the neighbourhood were inscribed on portions of paper, and being placed in a bag were by the young men eagerly drawn for. A similar proceeding was enacted with the names of the young men, which the lassies drew. The practice of despatching missives on St Valentine's Eve is comparatively modern.

On the Sunday preceding Easter or Palm Sunday the clergy of the Roman Church handed to the people tree branches to be borne in procession. Towards the cost of these processions were offerings rendered by the opulent. When James IV. was at Holy rood House in April 1489 he received from the Treasurer a demy, or fourteen shillings, for an offering on Palm Sunday; the following year his offering was eighteen shillings.

On the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday the boys of Lanark paraded the streets, bearing a large willow tree decorated with daffodils, box, and other evergreens. The three last days of March were styled the borrowing clays. When these were tempestuous a favourable summer was augured; if fine, an inclement season was anticipated. On All Fools' Day, the 1st of April, were practised those innocent impostures common on this day in nearly every European country.

Some of the rites of Beltane or May-day have been described. Latterly lowland cowherds assembled in the fields, and there prepared a refection of milk and eggs ; their feasting concluded, they carried burning faggots from house to house. In the uplands shepherds cut in the heath a small trench, in which, kindling a fire of wood, they dressed a candle of eggs, butter, oatmeal, and milk. As a libation a portion was spilt upon the ground. The party now individually took up a. cake of oatmeal, covered with nine square knobs, which were severally taken off and cast into the fire, the names of the enemies of the flock, such as the eagle and the fox, being named in connection with each. The long subsisting practice of moistening the face with dew on the morning of May-day has all but ceased.

To the practice of frequenting wells dedicated to saints on the several Sundays of May with a view to miraculous healing has allusion been made. The supposed Dealing qualities of Christ's Well in Menteith on May-day had attracted such crowds that in 1624 the Privy Council appointed certain commissioners to wait in its vicinity, and to forthwith imprison in the castle of Doune all who might assemble.

A day of Druidic observances in honour of the fruits, the 1st of August was, under the name of Lammas, adopted by the Roman Church as a Christian festival. The ancient origin was in their practices formerly symbolized by the herds of Haddingtonshire. About a month prior to the celebration the herds of a district built in a convenient centre a tower of sods. The tower was usually four feet in diameter at base, tapering towards the top, which rose to a height of about eight feet, terminating in a point containing a hole for a flagstaff. From the time when the tower begin to assume form and prominence it was watched nightly to prevent the attacks of neighbouring communities. The watchers were each provided with a tooting horn wherewith in an emergency they might summon their companions. On Lammas morning each community chose a captain, who received a large towel adorned with ribbons, which he bore in symbol of office. The community then breakfasted together on bread and cheese, drinking copiously from a spring well, near which uniformly they encamped. Scouts were on every side sent out to discover whether adversaries were approaching, of whom the presence was notified by horns. When hostilities were attempted the more powerful party commonly yielded to the weaker without a struggle, and in token of subjection laid down their colours. Occasionally fierce struggles occurred, and at one of these four of the combatants were killed. So many as one hundred herds had been known to contend on each side. This Lammas practice continued till after the middle of the eighteenth century.

The feast of the harvest-home, in early Celtic times celebrated at cairns, is popularly known as the kirn or cairn. A special practice called "crying the kirn" was on the last day of harvest observed on the principal farms. When the last handful of gain was secured, the reapers proceeded to the nearest eminence, and with vociferous demonstrations 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 owner received an augury of marriage.

The harvest-home was in Fifeshire known as the maiden, a derivation due not to the employment of young women in the Harvest-field, but to the elevated spot or mod-dun where the close of reaping was announced.

The sports and drolleries of the 31st October rest upon the usages of an earlier faith. Adopted as a Christian festival, the celebration was, as preceding the Feast of All Saints, styled All-Hallow Eve—in Scottish phrase, Hallowe'en. It was the feast of in gathering; fence in the observances are used both fruits and vegetables. With these was the unseen invoked—the future anticipated. To the young the rites were of especial interest, for the belief prevailed that with the charms of Hallow Eve were destinies associated. When two nuts placed together on the fire-grate remained in concert, those named to them were believed to possess in each other a real or a romantic interest. When nuts rested quietly, the course of affection was to prove smooth and lasting; but when one nut started up from the other, a quarrel was foreshadowed. In reference to the trial by nuts, Burns writes humorously:—

The auld gudewife's well-hoardit nits
Are round and round divided,
And moray lads' and Iassies' fates
Are there that night decided;
Some kindle couthie side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awv wi' saucy pride;
And jump out-oure the chimly
Fu' high that night.

Jean slips in twa wi' tentie e'e,
Wha 'twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel';
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part,
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see 't that night."

For charming, apples were much used. From the ceiling was suspended a small stick with an apple on the one end and a candle on the other. When the stick was twirled, those practising the drolleries endeavoured to seize the apple with their teeth, but more frequently came in contact with the candle, which scorched or greased them. Apples were set afloat in a tub of water, into which the merry-makers dipped their heads in order to catch one with the teeth. But the accomplishment was difficult, and the ardour with which it was prosecuted, usually led to a ridiculous immersion. Eating an apple before a. mirror was a potent charm. A. portion of the apple being reserved, was on the point of a fork, extended over the left shoulder. When the charm was thrice repeated, the future spouse was expected to be seen in the mirror, with extended hand.

A common Hallowe'en sport was the stepping out hand-in-hand into the cabbage garden, and there each with the eyes closed, pulling up the first root which met the hand. Borne to the hearth, each stem was examined. According as it was long or short, thick or slender, straight or crooked, so would be the aspect of the future helpmate. The quantity of earth adhering to the root betokened the amount of substance or dower. The taste of the stein further determined whether the spouse's temper would be sweet or acrid. The steins were now placed over the door, one after another, when the Christian names of those entering the house thereafter were held to indicate those of the persons with whom the merrymakers would be wedded.

Certain rites were deemed especially solemn. When a shirt-sleeve was dipped in water, and the garment thereafter hung up to dry, the future spouse was supposed to enter the apartment and turn the sleeve. A person stole out unperceived to the peat-stack, and sowing a handful of hemp-seed, 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, was supposed to stand 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, was held to invoke the appearance of the future lover. When the white of an egg, or melted lead was dropped into water, the appearances were held to indicate the future dwelling. If a landscape appeared, the operator was to reside in the country ; if prominences met the eye, a town was to be his place of dwelling. There were further charms. To the nearest kiln a journey was performed solitarily and at night. The adventurer cast into the kiln-pit a clue of blue yarn. The clue was now wound up, and towards the end some one was supposed to hold the thread. To the question "who holds?" an answer was expected from the kiln pit giving the name of the future spouse. The domestic drolleries of Hallowe'en have almost ceased, but in the bon-fires which at each anniversary blaze upon the northern hills the festival is perpetuated.

On the 25th December, in celebration of the upward coui6e of the sun after the winter solstice, the Druids held a great anniversary. During the fourth century the day was associated with the event of the Nativity, and in this connection it has been observed not only by the unreformed, but by many of the reformed Churches.

At the Scottish Court in the fifteenth century Christmas was observed with much festivity and spIendour. At Christmas 1489 James IV. wore a crimson satin "syd" gown, and a long robe of velvet, each lined with fur, also a short gown of velvet lined with damask, and two doublets of black satin, and one of crimson. Preceded by heralds and pursuivants he in the morning walked to high mass. Having at the altar bestowed a donation of fourteen shillings, he at noon handed largesses to his officers at arms. Thereafter he had with his court recourse to games and pastimes. There were cards and dice, and "tables" or backgammon. When in 1497 James IV. observed Christmas at Aberdeen, lie received from the Treasurer £156 to meet the costs of the card-tables. Among the out-door sports were "each," a species of tennis, also "kiles," and langbowlis, each a form of skittles.

The diversions of the 2th December were at court continued till Epiphany, or Twelfth Day ; nor did they wholly terminate till Candlemas. At court, also in the great houses, the revels were conducted under a Lord of Misrule, or Abbot of Unreason. On Hogmanay, that is the 31st December, this functionary, arrayed in a livery of green, and attended by a suite, perambulated the district, performing his escapades at the cost of private householders. In 1496 the 'Treasurer, on a royal precept, made to Gilbert Reade, at Stirling, a, payment of ten pounds "for spilling of his hour be the Abbot of Unresoun". On Hogmanay masquerading has prevailed up to our own times. Wile on a visit to Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford, Captain Basil Hall makes in his journal, under the 1st January 1825, the following entry:--

"Yesterday being Hogmanay, there was a constant succession of Guisards—that is, boys dressed up in fantastic caps, with their shirts over their jackets, and with wooden swords in their hands. These players acted a sort of scene before us, of which the hero was one Goloshin, who gets killed in a `battle for love,' but is presently brought to life again by a doctor of the party. As may be imagined the taste of our host is to keep up these old ceremonies. Thus, in the morning, yesterday, I observed crowds of boys and girls coming to the back door, when each one got a penny and an oaten-cake. No less than seventy pennies were thus distributed —and very happy the little bodies looked, with their well-stored bags."

In connection with Hogmanay, Dr Samuel Johnson, in his "Journey," describes a practice which obtained in the Hebrides. A man dressed himself in a cow's hide, upon which other men beat with sticks. As lie ran round the house with his followers, the inmates, in counterfeited fright, refused him admission. Nor was he allowed to enter till he repeated on the threshold some lines of poetry.

At Deerness in Orkney, on the evening of Hogmanay, minstrel bands proceed from house to house, begging, as messengers of the Virgin, for bread and cheese and ale. Their presence is welcomed, and any householder who is overlooked regards the omission as a personal slight. Till lately, on Hogmanay the children of the peasantry, clad in white garments, entered the dwellings of the opulent, and importuned for alms in strings of verse.

In the court celebration of Twelfth Day, 1563, Queen Mary enacted at Holyrood the French pastime of King of the Bean. In her mirthfulness she arrayed Mary Fleming, one of her maids of honour, in her own robes and jewels. Randolph, the English ambassador, who was present, describes the scene in animated language.

Christmas was formerly known as Yule, from the Saxon hiol, or wheel, a word primarily referring to the form of the Druidic temple, latterly signifying a feast. Scottish Reformers denounced the observance of Yule as a sacred festival, and sternly refused to tolerate Its festivities.

There were Christmas observances peculiar to localities. On Christmas morning, in Aberdeenshire, each member of a family was, in bed, served with Lagan le vrich, a species of sowens, while the supper dish consisted of crappit-heads, or the heads of haddocks stuffed with oatmeal and onions. Wad, or target-shooting, also the game of football, were favourite Christmas pastimes in the northern counties.

Distaff Day, held in England on the 7th of January, had its Scottish counterpart in the rocking. The poet Burns names the rocking in connection with Fastern's Eve. On the day of its observance, the wives of neighbouring cottagers assembled in some central dwelling, where each worked at the distaff till the evening, when they were in the succeeding festivities joined by their husbands.

For the young there were some peculiar diversions. Hurly hawky was practised at Stirling in the sixteenth century. One boy dragged another along the sloping side of a hill; hurly being the whirler, hawky the person whined. On the sloping hillocks adjoining Stirling Castle the pastime was indulged by the youthful James VI., when under the tutorage of Buchanan.

The Jingo Ring, a game played by girls, is derived from the practice of Romish rites. Joining hands, the players move slowly round one of their number, who with a handkerchief touches each of them in turn. In their gyrations they sing:

"Here we go by jingo-ring,
By jingo-ring, by jingo-ring,
Here we go by jingo-ring,
And round about Mary matin's say."

As the players repeat the words "Mary matin's say," they each bend down, and on rising resume the song and movement without variation.

The juvenile diversion of smuggling the geg, founded on practices associated with the contraband trade, obtained in south-western counties. Two parties were chosen by lot; they were of equal numbers, one being called outs, the other ins. The outs went out from the goal, the ins remained. The outs deposited something, such as a penknife, and then concealed themselves, calling out "Smugglers." The ins gave pursuit, and if the holder of the geg or deposit was captured, the parties exchanged places.

A youth who broke the rules of a game was formerly punished by hecklebirnie. His companions drew up in two files standing face to face, while he was made to pass between them in a stooping posture. In his progress he, on his back, received buffets smartly applied by the bonnets of the assembly. He passed, as it were, between the fires of Baal.

During the last half century the recreations of the two countries have much assimilated, while local and quaint observances have all but ceased. Card-playing, long an all-absorbing domestic pastime, is varied by others considerably more elevating. Holidays formerly wasted in frivolity, or abused by excess, are attended by the scientific exploration of rural scenes, or by other recreations which severally tend to invigorate the understanding, inform the judgment, and refresh the heart.


Return to Book Index Page