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Social Life in Scotland
Chapter VII. - Rural Life and Manners


THE condition of the Scottish peasantry had undergone only perceptible amelioration from the commencement of the fourteenth to the early part of the eighteenth century. Writing in 1661, Dr John Ray, the naturalist, who then visited Scotland, remarks: "The ordinary country houses are pitiful cots, built of stone, and covered with turves, having in them but one room, many of them no chimneys, the windows very small, broke, and not glazed." The "cou'dna be fash'd " system so admirably portrayed by Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton in the "Cottagers of Glenburnie" was no overstrained picture of rural life up to the period of the last rebellion. When, as Mrs Hamilton depicts, a village bridge was only half repaired and yet insecure, the remark "it'll do weel eneuch," settled all questions as to its stability. Describing the state of Ayrshire husbandry in 1750, Colonel Fullarton remarks that "the farm-houses were hovels, moated with clay, having an open hearth or fire-place in the middle and a dunghill at the door." When William Burnes, crofter at Alloway, resolved in the autumn of 1757 to enter into matrimony, he with his own hands reared his future dwelling. Composed of mud walls, it was covered with straw. About the 5th of February 1759, some ten days after his firstborn appeared on the scene, a violent gale threw down one of the gables, to the great peril of the mother and of her son. That son was the poet, Robert Burns.

An improved style of farm-dwelling proceeded about the close of the century. Farm-houses were now erected in stone, each containing from three to six apartments. But the door still opened into the farm-yard, as did nearly all the windows. This arrangement was intended to secure a constant surveillance of the hinds and maidens, also to discover the condition of the calves, pigs, and domestic fowl, which severally disported within a central enclosure named the reed. At the farm-house door a stone seat cushioned with turf, and projecting from the wall, formed the summer afternoon resting-place of the gudewife as she knitted her stocking and superintended her maidens. This seat was called the dais; it had its counterpart in the loupin-on-stane, a small erection of masonry for accommodating the gudewife in mounting and dismounting from her horse, on which she sat behind her husband as she accompanied him to kirk and market.

The farm-house was the headquarters of those who worked upon the farm, for though the hinds at night were lodged elsewhere, it was to all, including the married labourers, who occupied huts, a place of daily resort.

Breakfast was simply gone about. The farmer, with his wife and children, breakfasted on porridge. In porridge-making, water was boiled in a sauce-pan, into which oatmeal with salt was poured slowly, and constantly stirred with a wooden spurtle or theedle. The meal so prepared was supped with a horn spoon, each spoonful being dipped in a bowl of milk. The farm-labourer cooked his breakfast in simple fashion. He used brose. This dish was prepared by the straining of several handfuls of oatmeal in a small cog of hot water, which by continuous stirring attained a firm consistency. Like porridge, it was supped along with unskimmed milk.

Dinner for the entire household was served in the ha' or kitchen. At noon the gudewife, with her maidens, proceeded in the centre of the well-swept earthen floor to erect the timber or iron trestles and thereon to extend the tafil or dinner-boards. In the better class farm-houses the upper part of the dinner-boards was covered with a linen cloth. More frequently the upper part of the table, at which sat the farmer and family, was separated from the lower part by a chalk-line. Occasionally the distinction was indicated by the position of the salt-dish; those who sat above it were of the farmer's kin, those beneath it were his hirelings.

When all were seated—the farmer and his wife and children and other relatives in the place of honour, and the hinds—each ranking according to seniority or length of service—they uncovered and bowed their heads for "grace," or blessing. This was expressed in few and simple words, except by office-bearers of the Secession Church, who prolonged their utterances. Grace said, all the males resumed their bonnets, which, summer and winter, they retained in eating. Before taking his seat the farmer washed his hands, but the hinds were expected to eat without attempting an ablution.

Broth was usually the first dish. From a large family broth-pot, in form resembling the Roman camp-kettle, the liquor was transferred to a Boyne or wooden tub, and from thence conveyed in timber cogs to those who dined. The cog was afterwards laid aside unwashed, since the application of water was supposed to rend and ruin it; but each member of the household kept his own cog and spoon and bicker, which were severally inscribed with his selected mark, or with the initials of his name. In Hebridean crofts were used for bearing broth or milk to those who dined in the field the craggan, a narrow-necked earthen vessel, manufactured by women.

The broth of the farm-ha' had as a constituent a kind of pot barley, neither milled nor scaled, but bruised or beaten on the knocking-stone. Pot barley was knocked by the younger maid-servant, who also winnowed the product in a wecht or sieve.

Another constituent of farm-broth was the great nettle, urtica dioica, which grew luxuriantly in ditches and waste nooks. During the eighteenth century, and even earlier, the great nettle was in many districts, as a broth-vegetable, displaced by kale or colewort. Subsequently were added the carrot, onion, and turnip cut into small portions. Long after nettle-broth had ceased to be in general use, Stewart of Invernahyle, the contemporary and friend of Sir Walter Scott, partook of it at dinner on three successive days each spring, under the belief that thereby he would, for the remainder of the year, profit by its diuretic virtues. ["Nether Lochaber," by the Rev. Alexander Stewart. Edin., 18S3, 8vo, pp. 235, 349.]

In every pot of broth was boiled a joint of beef or mutton or of fresh pork. After the broth had been served the meat was supplied in portions by the gudewife, each of these being thrust into the cogs as severally they were passed round. When colewort was in use, the joint was served along with its stems, or castocks, but more commonly with bannocks baked that morning on the hearth.

Farm-house bread varied in quality. During the sixteenth century bread was of four sorts—the first was manchet, the second trencher, the third ravelled, the fourth mashloch. Ravelled bread was of bruised grain as it came from the mill, including both flour and bran. The mashloch was of sifted flour conjoined with rye. According to Dr Somerville, the bannocks of the farm-house in 1760 were composed of oatmeal, also of a mixture of pease-meal and barley-flour. [Dr Thomas Somerville's "Life and Times," 1714-1814. Edin. 1861, 8vo,passim.]

At the farm-kitchen dinner butcher meat was presented four times a week. On other or meagre days, dinner was commenced with a cog of sowens, derived from the liquor of bruised oats. Next followed cheese and hard-boiled eggs, also oaten cakes and butter. The cheese, usually prepared from skimmed milk, was imperfectly nutritious. In Strathmore and elsewhere near the banks of rivers salmon was by a portion of the tenantry substituted at dinner for broth and butcher meat. But hinds at hiring made a stipulation that they would not be required to eat salmon or fresh-water trout oftener than thrice a week.

On Sunday the firmer and his wife and children dined apart from the hinds in the spence or ben house. This apartment, with its uncarpeted wooden floor, always contained a box-bed with sliding doors, also a sort of fire-grate, on which might be burned turf and peat or wood and coal. When on Sundays the gudeman preferred a hot instead of the usual "cold Sabbath Denner," he was privileged with a dish of sheep's head and trotters. The preparation of this dish is thus humorously described in the vernacular: "It needs little watchin', and disna gang wrang wi' owre lang boiling'. Cleek it on an' get it fair through the boil, then deck it up so as it'll no boil over an' pit oot the fire, an' ye may lock the door an' gang a' to the kirk, an' come oot when you like. It disna matter for an hour or twa, either; 'deed it's a' the better o' plenty o' the fire, especially if ye hae a handfu' o' the blue pat-pea in't an' plenty barley. Then what's like the broth on a cauld day." ["Bits from Blinkbonny." Edin., 1882; p. 186.]

There were a few other occasions on which the farmer and his wife abandoned at dinner the society of their hinds. A notable occasion was that on which they gave to the neighbours the spare-rib dinner after the slaughter of the mart. Another was that of the minister's pastoral visit. Dinner at these times was served in the silence. As each guest arrived the gudewife proceeded to wipe with a lined towel the chair which he was expected to occupy.

Cooking preparations had been commenced at early morn. The principal joint was broiled, but the roasting jack was prior to 1750 unknown in the farmhouse. A spit was used, to which was attached a wooden wheel, which was turned by a dog or one of the younger servants. The guest-dining hour at the farm-house varied at different periods. In 1514 every husbandman gave his dinner entertainments so early as ten o'clock. During the eighteenth century, the farmer entertained his friends at the hour of one. Profusion was the prevailing characteristic. There were stacks of bread and heaps of vegetables. Along with the principal dish were piles of chickens, sirloins of mutton, loads of pork, and a prodigious haggis. Wooden cogs were dispensed with, the eating plates being of pewter or earthenware. The substantial part of the entertainment was placed on the table at once, when the maidens who brought it in stood back and smiled. Of waiting in the modern sense they were wholly ignorant, nor could the mistress offer a suggestion.

When the guests were seated, the mistress took her place at her husband's right hand; she stood there, for she was not yet expected to occupy her seat. From her point of eminence she could better guide her husband and direct her maidens. At her nod the latter carried off used or empty dishes, and brought is fresh relays of hot potatoes or other steaming vegetables. When potatoes were first introduced they were presented in the skins, which each removed by his fingers. If the gudeman omitted to specially attend to some honoured guest, his wife reminded him by a nudge. Some gudewives sought to entertain their guests by dry jests or humorous references. Every farm housewife in Forfarshire, as the first course was being served, exhorted her guests to "stick weel to the skink, and no trust to the castocks"—that is, to indulge copiously in broth and not to expect too much from the after-part of the entertainment. Pressing to eat was the universal rule, and the gudewvife was expected to direct her speeches in the way of urgence so long as the meal continued. Roast beef and boiled fowl were recommended by turns. The haggis, as prepared by her own hands, the gudewife specially urged upon the company. Some phrases of urgence would strike strangely upon modern ears, such as "I say, minister, what ails ye at the swine that ye're no' tastin' the pork;" "Dominic," addressing the parish schoolmaster, dinna crack [talk] yersell out o' yer denner, my man; pree the, gruse, and dab it weel wi' mustard."

"Macgersicawber and Clentulichan," naming two farmers by their farms, "ye maun tak' a spaul [leg] o' the chuckie [fowl] or a weng o' the jeukie [duck] or a big scklice o' the bublie-jock [turkey]. Tak a bit o' the mert [mart], Saunders Tamson; o'd, man, it was felled be Jock, yer gudebrither." Amidst such speeches, rough or simple, but each received in the good humour in which it was expressed, did the guests in the farm-spence continue their repast.

When the meat viands were removed, which was done by huddling them together in a large wicker-basket, the gudewife took her seat opposite her husband and proceeded to serve cheese and pudding. Thereafter she tarried a little to sanction the "grace-drink." For there was a tradition that the good Queen Margaret had ruled that when grace was invoked after eating, strong liquor might be drunk subsequently. From its usual resting-place in the oak cabinet or upon the mahogany chest of drawers which stood in the apartment, the china punchbowl was transferred to the dining-table and there placed in front of the gudeman. Charged with half a gallon of gin or brandy, for whisky was deemed unworthy of those who assembled at a farm-feast, the other contents were added according to the experienced taste of the elder guests. When the family toasts were disposed of, the gudewife joined her maidens in the kitchen. Amidst frequent renewals of the punch-bowl there were songs and sentiments, and perhaps some tunes upon the violin or flageolet. The snuff-mull was constantly passed round, each guest leaving on the floor or on the table, also upon his knees and on the folds of his dress, evidence of his indulgence in a habit at once absurd, pernicious and wasteful.

The gudewife now returned to her guests, placing before them some substantial refreshment to negative the effect of excessive drinking. Those who attended it spare-rib dinner generally departed about nine o'clock, but rarely quite sober. Yet excess was not universal. To some it was altogether obnoxious. The writer's paternal ancestors were small landowners and tenant-farmers in the counties of Forfar and Perth, and with a pardonable satisfaction he ventures to record that they were, from one generation to another, noted for their abstinence. The writer's grandfather, Peter Roger, who a century ago rented the lands of Laws in Forfarshire, was by his neighbours known as "Water Laws," a sobriquet which, as indicating his perfect sobriety, is at once a credit to his memory, and the legacy of an example to his race.

In the farmer's kitchen supper was served at seven o'clock. There were ordinarily two courses—first, kale-brose, them oat cakes and milk. Kale-brose consisted of colewort cut into portions and boiled in a saucepan along with oatmeal and salt; or a handful of oatmeal was thrown into a large vessel, and the boiling liquor of the colewort cast over it and mixed. During harvest, reapers and hinds had for supper a species of food in winch turnips and barley flour were boiled to a consistence; mustard was added in eating. When potatoes became common, these were substituted as the evening meal. Potatoes boiled in their skins were toppled from the saucepan on the tafil, or dinner boards, when all, some standing and others seated, extended their fingers to the heap. The practice existed in the writer's youth, and the juvenile elevation which he experienced in occasionally sharing this kitchen cheer, he at the lapse of half a century gratefully recalls.

The farmer, who ordinarily took supper apart from his servants, enjoyed at this meal some little delicacy carefully prepared by the gudewife. Those who farmed near the seaboard were regaled with shell-fish—crab, mussel, and whilks; those near the banks of rivers had pike, perch, and salmon trout, while dwellers near the muir and coney-warren were privileged with stewed rabbit and hare-soup. When a stranger was expected at supper a boiled pullet or roasted duck was added to the evening fare. When strangers were not present, spirituous liquor was used sparingly. The usual beverage of the farm-house was skimmed milk, or milk unskimmed and mixed with water.

Beside the bullock killed at Martinmas, and consequently called the mart, crock ewes, or those which had ceased to produce lambs, were killed at intervals. The flesh of sheep which died of any ordinary ailment was, as "braxy," preserved for food. At Christmas hogs were slaughtered; these, cut in pieces, were salted, and then smoked in the kitchen chimney.

Dovecots were anciently built on small holdings, but in 1617 a statute was passed restricting the privilege of possessing them to those who owned lands which might produce twelve chalders of victual. By an Act passed in 1567, owners of dovecots were protected, inasmuch as the destruction of a pigeon was made punishable with forty days' imprisonment, and for the second offence with deprivation of the right hand.

Prior to the eighteenth century, persons employed on a farm were clothed by its produce. The products required were flax, wool, and leather. Flax seeds, procured from Holland, or Riga, or Philadelphia, were sown on light soil—the richest crops being yielded on haughs or river banks. On every farm flax was sown, and in addition to that required by the family, each maid-servant was allowed a portion for her personal attire. When the raw material was by village artizans sufficiently prepared, then commenced the work of spinning. At the spinning-wheel females of all ranks occupied themselves busily. In the farm-house the gudewife and her daughters span with their domestics. The sheets used in every farm-house were fabricated by the women of the family.

From the sheep pastured on his "shepherd-land" or grazing acres, did the husbandman derive woollen clothing for himself, his children, and his hinds. Shetland crofters roughly tore the wool from their sheep's backs, the wool so obtained being; converted into wad or wadmail, a coarse fabric which islanders wore.

In the mainland, sheep-shears were in use from the earliest times. The annual sheep-shearing, an occasion of local interest, was attended with festivities. As a result, material for warm garments was procured for all who worked upon the farm. The wool was originally spun in the farm-house, but in the seventeenth century it was entrusted to the litster, whose vocation was to cleanse and prepare it for household use. When the web of woollen stuffs was returned by the litster, the tailor was summoned, who continued to work upon the premises till the entire fabric had been converted into garments. A century ago the tailor's daily pay was tenpence, but he was allowed to supply thread, on which he derived a small profit.

Husbandmen wore two vests, of which the under or surcoat, made of plaiding, was buttoned closely upon the breast. To the waistcoat were attached skirts, which filling upon the thighs were made secure to the loins by a belt of buff leather. The coat, a capacious vestment, was made of a mixture of black and white wool, and had upon it large buttons coarsely formed on woollen moulds and covered with cloth. Breeches of similar material were made to button under the knee, upon hose of grey plaiding. The usual necktie or overlay was a square tweeling, of coarse yarn, which after twice enclosing the neck was buttoned to one of the vests. The bonnet or cap, also of wool, was of different colours, generally blue or russet. Husbandmen of the better class wore linen shirts; in pastoral districts the farmer's shirt was of coarse wool, and was changed not oftener than four times a year.

Animals' skins were converted into leather, by tanning either on the premises, or at the village tannery. A century ago the district shoemaker or souter was accommodated in the farm-house for a period of weeks, until he converted the leather reared upon it into boots, shoes, and leggings. A century ago crofters and their hinds wore brogues, fashioned of horse skin and undressed deer's hide, with the hair outwards, and which were tied to the ankles by leathern thongs. In the Orkney and Shetland Isles, also in the Hebrides, continue to be worn a kind of sandals, called rivlins. A piece of untanned cowhide is folded up the side of the foot, and closed and stitched with thongs at heel and toes. In frost or dry snow the rivlin is substituted by the smock, a kind of slipper made of cloth, and cross-sewn on the soles to prevent slipping.

Within the last eighty years the farmer's wife wore within doors a short-gown which rested loosely upon her shoulders, and fell upon a petticoat of barn or camlet, or Linsey-Woolsey. In walking abroad, she was clad in a coarse plaiding or drugget gown, made of coarse wool, and roughly spun. Her head was protected by a large linen cap, called, a toy, which encroached on the face, and of which a large portion rested upon the shoulders. In undress the farmer's wife protected her head and face by a woollen toy, her ankles in woollen hoggens, and her feet by pattens or timber clogs, which she secured to her ankles by leathern overstraps. After marriage, every farmer's wife prepared her shroud, which she kept in her chest of drawers, and aired by spreading out of doors once a year. The wives of highland crofters occasionally made garments when guiding the ploughshare.

Maid-servants of the farm wore linen matches, with broad borders and large ties,—otherwise they were clad in the manner of their mistresses. At home and abroad, except when at church or market, they dispensed both with shoes and hoggens. One pair of shoes they received at the souter's annual visit. But the pair of shoes thus granted were known as ''single soles," and in their evening hours the wearers were expected to double or treble their thickness. in 1562 a pair of shoes, single-soled, cost 2s. 8d., of double-soled 3s. 8d. With this may be compared a bill rendered to the poet Burns, by John Weir, shoemaker at Mauchline, upwards of two centuries later:—

With the commencement of the nineteenth century vestiary customs underwent a change. At church or market the farmer and his wife now clothed tastefully; the former wore a blue or black coat with brass buttons, and his wife dispensed with her toy and patters. Agricultural labourers and farm-maids, formerly clad in hodden, now wore fustian or corduroy. Older costumes linger in the Hebrides.

When unmarried hinds ceased to obtain their meals in the farriers kitchen a small barrack or bothy was constructed for their use. In the bothy the hinds sleep at night, and during day prepare their victuals. For breakfast and dinner they use brose with milk, and in the evening sup on milk and potatoes. The bothy system is not universal, and its usage, as denying to hinds the comforts of the social hearth, has been emphatically condemned. The domiciliary condition of the peasantry was anciently of the worst kind. During the reign of James I. a peasant's hut was built of turf, supported by a few rude posts, and roofed with boughs and sods. An English gentleman travelling in Scotland in 1704 describes the farm-huts at Crawfordjohn as composed of earth or loose stones, with roofs of turf, and earthen floors. "The chimney," he adds, "is a hole in the roof, and the fireplace is in the middle of the floor." Robert Heron remarks that in 1745 the people of Rannoch, Perthshire, built huts of twigs, interwoven with stakes driven into the ground.

"The doors," he remarks, "were so narrow that one could not enter otherwise than by creeping, and the roof of the hut was so low that the inmates could not stand upright." [Journal through the Western Counties of Scotland," by Robert Heron, Perth, 1793, 2 vols. 8vo, vol. i. p. 219.] The domestic condition of the peasantry of Kirkcudbrightshire about the same period is described by the minister of Tongland in these words:—"Their houses were the most miserable hovels, built of stone and turf, without mortar, and stopped with fog or straw to keep the wind from blowing in upon them. . . In such houses, when they kindled a fire, they lived in a constant cloud of smoke, enough to suffocate them, had they not been habituated to it from infancy. They had many of them no standing beds, but slept on heath or straw, covered with the coarsest blankets, upon the floor. They kept their cattle in the same house with themselves, tied to stakes in one end of the house."

At a period not remote the peasantry of the Hebrides found lodgement in the bothan. These live-like structures, some isolated, others in couples, contain apartments nine feet long, six broad, and about six in height. When two bothan were together they were united by means of an orifice so small as to be got through only by creeping. Bothan have latterly been used chiefly as sheelings, or places of shelter for cattle herds. Some are found in groups.

Dr Samuel Johnson, writing in 1774, describes the huts of the Hebrides as "constructed with loose stones, ranged for the most part with some tendency to circuIarity." He adds:—"The wall, which is commonly about six feet high, declines from the perpendicular a little inward; such rafters as can be procured are then raised for a roof, and covered with heath, which makes a strong and warm thatch, kept from flying off by ropes of twisted heath, of which the ends, reaching from the centre of the thatch to the top of the wall, are held firm by the weight of a large stone. No light is admitted but at the entrance and through a hole in the thatch." What Dr Johnson found in the Hebrides might long subsequently have been remarked in the central counties. In lowland hamlets the doors of peasant's huts were approached by making a circuit of a dunghill or pestilential pool, which closely bordered the thresh-hold. Hut windows were glazed only in the upper sills, and these were covered with cobwebs. Hamlets stood upon the edge of streams, into which accumulations of filth were periodically conducted.

The ameliorating influences which have operated in other departments of the social system have not extended to the better housing of the agricultural classes. In the census returns of 1871, a third of the rural Population are described as living in one room, more than two-thirds in houses of one or two rooms, and four-fifths in dwellings of three rooms and under. Not long since in the counties of Roxburgh and Berwick nearly forty per cent. of the rural dwellings had only a single window, and till very lately in certain districts of Ayrshire a single apartment was deemed sufficient accommodation for families of eight and ten. Single roomed huts are most common in Dumfriesshire.

The condition of the crofters in the Highlands and Islands is now the subject of Parliamentary enquiry. Among the Commissioners' recommendations will, it is hoped, be included some suggestions as to the better housing of the people. Within the black-house of the Lewis, sheep and cattle are stowed together with the family. The space used by the household is approached through the cow-house, and actually belongs to it. The walls are of turf, with an outer and inner facing of dry stone-work. On the wall-tops sheep feed and children play. The undressed rafters are bound together by straw ropes, a necessary precaution, for the thatch is removed annually for the sake of the soot, which is used as manure. The soot collected is abundant, for the farm-house has no smoke-hole, all the occupants constantly inhaling the smoke of smouldering peat. The sole openings for admitting air or light are the constantly open door, apertures in the eaves, and incidental chinks in the roof. To these huts the doors are of cowhide or matted straw. Some of the Lewis crofters are without tables, the household eating from the floor upon their knees. [The "Past and the Present," by Arthur Mitchell, M.D., LL.D., Edin., 1880, 8vo, pp. 48-54.]

Though meanly housed and living on the coarsest fare, the Lowland peasantry clothed neatly. During his visit to Scotland in 1661 Dr John Ray remarked that the peasantry were "fond of good clothes, wearing cloaks at the plough; he quaintly adds that "on Sundays a fellow that has scarce ten groats besides to help himself with, you shall see come out of his smoaky cottage, clad like a gentleman."

In the uplands, clothing has long been regarded with. indifference. During the eighteenth century highlanders ordinarily slept at night in the garments which they wore during the day, and ablutions were performed only on Sunday, when all and sundry laved their feet and washed their hands and faces in the nearest stream. Oatmeal was used as a substitute for soap. Razors were rare. The highlander dressed his beard with his scissors. Women washed their garments in rivers and stanks or ponds. Blankets and household articles of bulk they cleansed by treading upon them in tubs, with tucked up garments. This unseemly practice has not wholly ceased.

An English tourist, writing in 1788, remarks that immediately "after crossing the Solway Firth" that is, after entering Scotland—he found "the children, and even many men and women, without either shoes or stockings." He describes elderly women as wearing a long, dirty cloak, reaching to the ground, with hoods drawn over their heads, and without shoes or stockings, or wearing huggers, that is, stockings with the feet worn away by hard service, or purposely cut from them. ["A Tour in England and Scotland in 1784," by an English Gentleman, Lond., 1788, 8vo, pp. 70, 73.] According to James Boswell, the Right Hon. Charles Townshend used to relate that he was received at the house of the Lord President Craigie, about the year 1759, by "a female porter," without stockings or shoes.

Writing in 1769 Pennant remarks that in the Highlands married women used a kirch or linen cap, covering the head and falling behind their necks. Maidens wore around their heads a simple ribband, called a snood. "If," remarks the Rev. AIexander Stewart, "a damsel was so unfortunate as to lose pretensions to the name of maiden, without acquiring a right to that of matron, she was neither permitted to wear that emblem of virgin purity, the snood, nor advanced to the grave dignity of the coif or curch." ["Nether Lochaber," by the Rev. Alexander Stewart, Edin., 1883, 8vo, p. 6.]

The mangle was unknown. Linen garments were smoothed by a mell or wooden pestle. To their caps and mutches females applied hot smoothing-stones. The ordinary smoothing-stone was a portion of water-worn rock, weighing about three pounds, and grasped by the hand with a wooden holder.

Hot stones were in the Highlands used for cooking. According to Captain Burt, the Highlanders made broth in wooden troughs, into which they introduced large red-hot stones, to induce boiling. This mode of cooking is still practised in Shetland. In the fourteenth century, according to Froissart, the Scots cooked beef in skins stretched on four stakes.

Except by husbandmen beef was used sparingly. So restricted was the general consumption that in 1750 there were in the town of Ayr killed annually not more than fifty head of cattle, though the town and suburbs contained about four thousand inhabitants. Within the larger hamlets an ox was fed on the common pasture for the joint benefit of the several householders. The slaughter of the animal was the occasion of an annual holiday. On the morning of slaughter-day, the animal intended for the knife had attached to its horns a chaplet of wild flowers. It was thereafter led through the village, preceded by a piper. The act of slaughtering was a public spectacle, and while the flesh had scarcely become cold, it was cut in portions to be divided among the householders. The offal was reserved for the poor. When sheep were killed for general distribution, the blade-bone was given to beggars; hence neck of mutton was called "the poor man." In small hamlets, a day was annually appropriated to the slaughtering of the village hogs and cleansing of the piggeries; it was styled sow-day.

When in rural districts bullocks were to be killed for sale, announcernents of the intention were made publicly. In an advertisement intimating that a bullock was to be killed at Dalkeith on the 14th May 1723, it was set forth that "the said ox is two ells and one inch high; in length, from the root of the ear to his hip-bone, two yards three quarters. . . . It is calculated by all tradesmen that ever did see him that he will have tell stone-weight of tallow in his belly. . . . There is none in this age ever did see any in this place of Britain like him; I doubt if any such as him be, or to be equalized in England at this day. He has been fed this two years, and he is only six years old just now."

The cost of animal food at different periods is curiously interesting. In 1124 a cow was sold at 6s.; at Forfar, in 1314, an ox brought in market 6s. 8d., and a cow 5s. In 1424 the price of an ox remained as before, but in 1512 a stall-fed ox with its hide brought 3, 10s. In the inventory of Laurence Mercer of Meikleour, registered 26th May 1581, are enumerated: "fifty drawand [drawing] oxen at 8 each; twenty-two ky [cows] each at 6;" a bull at 3, 6s. 8d.; and "seven young calfis [calves] at 1 each." In the glebe stocking of Mr James Mercer, minister of Clunie, included in his inventory in 1656, a cow is valued at 18. In 1740, the year of scarcity, an ox weighing thirty stones was sold in Kincardineshire for one guinea sterling; in 1764 an ox had increased in price to two and three pounds. In Edinburgh, beef was in 1770 sold at 2d. and 3d. per 1b., being double the price which it brought in the same market ten years previously. And the pound of beef then contained 17 ounces. The price of a sheep in 1124 was 1s. 4d.; in 1329, 2s.; and in 1512, 5s. In 1581 ewes and rams were in Perthshire valued at 16s. each, and a lamb at 13s. 4d. In 1750 mutton was generally sold at 1d., and thirty years later at 2d. and 2d. a lb. Prior to 1760 rural towns were without slaughter-houses.

Some prices of poultry and dairy produce at different periods may be quoted. A fowl which in 1205 was valued at one halfpenny brought 2d. in 1678, and in 1790 was sold for 5d. sterling. In 1329 a stone of cheese was sold at 1s., and in 1512 at 4s. 6d. The price of cheese per pound of twenty-four ounces in 1770 was 3d. sterling. Butter in 1512 fetched 6s. per stone, and in 1682, 4d. per lb. of 28 ounces. The price of butter per pound in 1779 was 7d. sterling.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries butter prepared by cottars, whether for the public market or their own consumption, was carefully packed in wooden kegs and carried to peat bogs, and there for a season buried. It was held that in the absence of salt, moss preserved the butter; it also eliminated the taste of the rank herbage eaten by cattle. Hairs which appeared among butter were not removed from it, since it was superstitiously believed that when taken out, the cow which have the milk would cease to thrive.

A duty on tallow, which interfered with domestic candle-making, led to the use of various substitutes. From early times the highland cottagers used, in producing artificial light, slips of birch and fir trees. More frequently was suspended, on a hook projecting from the wall near the fire-place, a common shell containing oil, and which gave light by a wick formed of a rush pith.

Tea was introduced in Scotland by the Duke of York, when in 1682, as high Commissioner, he held court at Holyrood. But its acceptance was slow. In his "Life and Times," Dr Somerville remarks that having inspected the household books of the Duke of Queensberry from 1697 to 1708, he had not founed tea mentioned even once. The price of a pound of tea in 1715 was twenty-five shillings sterling. For many years it was used as medicine. In country places even a century ago, farmers' wives in preparing it for their guests carefully removed the liquor, which they believed unwholesome, and served up with butter or honey the boiled leaves. When as a beverage tea was advancing into general use, the Lord President Forbes began to apprehend that its consumption might induce national effeminacy. He therefore exerted his powerful influence in suppressing the trade. Under his direction, the traffic was denounced by county magistrates and civic corporations. By the Convention of Burgles in 1743, the consumption of tea was associated with the use of foreign spirits, and classed with it as a national evil. They passed a resolution complaining "of the unhappy circumstances to which this part of the United Kingdom is reduced by the universal and excessive use of tea and foreign spirits, to which all ranks, even the very meanest of the people, are tempted by the low prices at which such commodities are afforded by the smuggler." They emphatically added "that the unrestrained use of such foreign goods, for the purchase whereof the coin of the country has for year after year been exposed, till at last the scarcity of bullion is very sensibly felt, has, in a great measure, supplanted the consumption of malt liquors and spirits made of grain, the growth of the country, whereof the value of barley and all grains fit for malting must necessarily be reduced, to the very great loss of all landlords and farmers over the kingdom." The Convention followed up their complaints by a petition to Parliament praying that "the universal and excessive use of tea and foreign spirits" might be prevented. In the light of modern experience, a resolution respecting the use of tea by the tenants of William Fullarton of Fullarton, in 1744, is extremely ludicrous. It proceeds: "We, being all farmers by profession, think it needless to restrain ourselves formally from indulging in that foreign and consumptive luxury called tea; for when we consider the slender constitutions of many of higher rank, amongst whom it is used, we conclude that it would be but an improper diet to qualify us for the more robust and manly parts of our business; and therefore we shall only give our testimony against it, and leave the enjoyment of it altogether to those who can afford to be weak, indolent, and useless." Tea as a beverage overcame every opposition, and before the close of the century it had penetrated to the most northern parishes, where by householders of the middle rank it was used daily.

On the extinction of agrarian servitude, the industrious portion of those emancipated rented laud on the steel-bow system. Other liberated persons were content to be poor, or to accept only occasional employment. From the Dental Book of the abbey of Cupar we learn that cottars were, late in the fifteenth century, prohibited from employing serfs or neyfs. Those then styled neyfs were idle wanderers.

When James I. returned from England in 1424, he was in his state policy much guided by the usages of the southern kingdom. Desiring that strict justice should be extended to the indigent, he moved his Parliament to enact that "puir creatures" be provided with advocates to plead for them before a judge. This provision was followed up in 1531, when two advocates were publicly appointed a counsel for the poor. Idlers who begged from door to door were, by a law of James I., reprehended and punished. It was ordained that "sornares [Vagrants who insisted on taking up their abodes at the houses they visited were so described.] or companies overlyand the kiingis lieges suld be arreisted and satisfie the king and partie." Sheriffs were instructed to inquire in their head courts whether there were any faltouris within their sheriffdoms, that they might be punished. It was also enacted that "na biggar (beggar) be thoiled to beg, either in toun or country, between the ages of fourteen and seventy, nor unless they may not win their living otherways, in which case they are to be furnished with a certain token or badge by the sheriff in landward places, and by the aldermen and ladies in burghs; and persons without such token are to be charged by open proclamation to labour for winning their own living, under burning on the cheek, and being banished the country." In 1425, sheriffs were charged to inquire after idle persons that had no visible means of living, and to arrest and confine them, so "that the country might be unscaithed of them till their places of dwelling were discovered." Thereafter these idle persons were to be allowed forty days to find masters, or to betake themselves to a lawful craft, and if they were still found idle, they were again to be imprisoned, and to incur such further punishment as the king might determine. In 1427, James and his Parliament resolved that the Act against beggars should be strictly enforced, sheriffs and magistrates being enjoined to carry out the provisions under a penalty of forty shillings.

By the Parliament of James II. in 1449 it was ordained "for the away-putting of sornares, overlyars, and masterful beggars," that all sheriffs, barons, aldermen, and bailies, as well within burgh as without, shall take inquisition of such persons at each court that they hold, and if any such be found, that they shall be imprisoned, and their horses, hounds, and other goods escheated. "Fools that are not bards," who moved idly about, it was enacted were by "their cars to be nailed to the trove, or to any other tree, and then cut off, and themselves banished the country." Those who returned from banishment were to be hanged. These Acts were renewed subsequently. By the Parliament of James IV., it was provided, in 1503, that the magistrates of burghs "thoil none to beg except cruiked folk, blind folk, impotent folk, and weak folk," under the penalty of paying one merk for every other beggar found in their several burghs.

In checking mendicancy the earlier enactments had failed, for in 1535 Parliament re-affirmed the previous Acts "for the refreyning of the multitude of maisterful and strang beggaris," by ordaining that these should be resolutely enforced. It was at the same time ruled that the aged, blind, and impotent poor should be maintained in the parishes to which they severally belonged. For their further support contributions were, to be procured by "head men" in every parish.

Repressive enactments had been very partially remedial, for in 1551 it is set forth in a public statute that the Earl of Arran, the regent, and his nobility were unable to pass through the streets on account of beggars "raming and crying upon them".

Towards the deserving poor the clergy exercised an exemplary benevolence. The brethren of Cupar monastery enjoined their tenants to provide for their indigent relatives, while in the abbey was kept a bursa pauperum for the benefit of persons in distress. The Abbey authorities also provided hospitals in which the sick might receive care and medical supervision. A physician was maintained upon the estate.

To provide adequately for the poor was a chief concern of the Reformed clergy. Under their administration indigent persons were provided for partly by collections at the doors of churches, and partly from the rents of the religious houses. Penalties recovered from persons under discipline were also used in relieving the indigent. From this source arose a revenue much in excess of the amount, which for behoof of the poor was contributed voluntarily. By granting authority for the construction of yews in the areas of churches, or by erecting these and letting them at stated rents, were secured further revenues.

In maintaining burghal poor, Kirksessions were aided by the municipal corporations. In April 1561, a duty of twelve pence was by the Town Council of Edinburgh imposed on every tun of wine sold in the city, the money so raised being appropriated to failed merchants and craftsmen.'' For behoof of the poor, as well as the support of the clergy, Queen Mary in December 1564, enjoined the magistrates of the capital to "lay a stent," that is, to levy an assessment. During the same year the Kirk-session of the Canongate ruled "that no person get ony almes except that they had been at the communion, saifand infants, fatherless, and sick persons as are in extreme sickness, or in extreme poverty."

By the Kirksession of Edinburgh in 1574, it was ruled that every unmarried pauper should receive a weekly allowance of two shillings, and married paupers double that amount. During sickness eighteen pence was to be added weekly. On time 27th October 1574, the Town Council of Edinburgh ordained "proclamatioun to be maid chargeing all vagabondis and idill personis to remove thame selfiis of this toun and boundis thairof, within xlviij houris vnder the pane of scourging and birning on the chick."

In 1574, also in 1579, the General Assembly with approval of Parliament renewed the older Acts for "the stanching of maisterful idle beggars." In the Act of 1579 it is set forth "that the said beggars, besides the other inconveniences which they daily produce to the commonwealth, procure the wraith and displeasure of God for the wicked and ungodlie form of living used among them, without marriage or the baptizing of their children." The Act provided that "till strong and idle beggars above the age of fourteen and under the age of seventy found wandering and misordering themselves shall be apprehended and brought before the provost and bailies in burghs and the justices of landward parishes in order to punishment." On the first conviction the offenders were to be placed in the stocks, and on being convicted a second time were to be scourged and with a hot iron burned in the ear. For continuing to lead a vagabond life, was assigned the punishment of death. Those harbouring vagabonds or strong beggars were amerced in penalties. By the same statute it was provided that any one maintaining any "beggar's bairns, above the age of five and under fourteen, should be legally entitled to their services, if a male, to the age of twenty-four, and if as female, to the age of twenty-eight."

Statutes of similar import were passed in 1592 and 1593, in the latter of which it is declared that "lymmars and sornares" proceeded throughout the country, "sometimes disguised with false beards or in lumen clothes, or in fool's garments;" others, it is set forth, feigned that they were "passing in pilgrimage to chapels and wells." By Acts passed in 1575, 1597, and 1601, Kirksessions and Presbyteries were empowered to solely administer for the poor, and to repress mendicancy. Consequent on this authority the Kirksession of Perth, on the 11th March 1604, "ordained John Jack, offciar," to apprehend and put out of the town "the strange beggars resorting in great numbers out of the highlands, who trouble honest men in the streets, especially on the Sabbath days, and are a great hindrance for the collection to the ordinary poor." The kirksession of Dunfermline on the 14th October 1649 appointed the burgh executioner to "keep beggaris from entering the kirk-yard on Sundays," lest their importunities might diminish the contributions offered in the collecting plates. Subsequently the same Kirksession procured a wheelbarrow, in which the sexton might transport beyond their bounds aged and infirm persons who had no legal claim upon their funds. In November 1685 Margaret M'Ewen died at Dunfermline, while Robert Peirson, joiner, was at the instance of the Kirk-session preparing "a barrow to transport her out of the parish."

The enactment whereby Kirksessions were entrusted with the relief of the poor was, in consideration of the influence possessed by the Presbyterian clergy among four-fifths of the population, sound and salutary. But a further provision that Kirksessions and Presbyteries should under a penalty be held responsible for the repression of mendicancy was obviously unreasonable. Sturdy vagrants, defiant of control, continued to lurk about molesting everybody. In March 1616 the Privy Council enjoined the magistrates of Edinburgh to expel "strong and idle vagabonds," which are described as infesting the Cowgate, Canongate, and other thorough-fares.

In 1617 Parliament, acknowledging the inability of ministers and elders to deal with sturdy wanderers, assigned the duty of restraining them to Justices of the Peace. These were authorized to appoint constables to every parish, and empowered to apprehend any suspected person "who sleepeth all day and walketh at night," also those who contemptuously disobeyed ecclesiastical censures. During the same year was passed another statute, whereby well-affected persons were encouraged to receive orphans and the children of indigent parents, in order to their industrial upbringing. In recompense, children were enjoined to serve their benefactors till past the age of thirty, and to he subject to their correction and chastisement in all manner and sort of punishments, death and torture excepted."

Relieved of the irksome duty of repressing mendicancy, Kirksessions continued to exercise a beneficent care of the deserving poor. In 1641 the Kirksession of St Andrews arranged to send weekly through the town, under the inspection of the elders, a boor's creel or basket, in which were to be gathered articles both of food and clothing. The value of what in this manner was collected is entered along with the amount of the Sunday collections. On the 2d December 1651 the church collection is reported as amounting to 191, and "creel money" as representing a value of 21, 14s. 4d.

In the Parliamentary Act of 1579 are classed with vagabonds and "masterful beggars," idle people calling themselves Egyptians; in the statutes of 1593 and 1593 they are styled "counterfeit Egyptians."

Wandering tribes, which in the fifteenth century began to settle in the different countries of Europe, did not hail from Egypt as they pretended. As their language bore a resemblance to Hindustance, it is probable they were of one of the lower castes of Sinde, which had migrated from India when on the Mahommedan invasion in 1309 Timur Beg became Great Mogul. In 1427 one hundred of the tribe appeared at Paris, representing that they were Christian pilgrims expelled from Egypt. Allowed to settle in France, they were there styled Bohemians. From France a portion of their number proceeded to Scotland about the close of the sixteenth century. In 1506 James IV. despatched to his uncle the king of Denmark a letter recommending to his royal care Anthony Gawine, "earl of Little Egypt," and his followers, who, he adds, had lately arrived in Scotland on a pilgrimage undertaken at the command of the Pope.

It is uncertain whether the pretended Earl of Little Egypt actually visited Denmark. Equally ignorant with his father as to the origin and character of the pretentious strangers, James V., On the 17th February 1541, issued a proclamation charging ''all and sundry" to assist in maintaining the authority of "Johnne Faw, Lord and Erle of Little Egypt," against some members of his company who had threatened to renounce his control. And on the 6th June of the same year the Privy Council, in considering the quarrel between Faw and his tribe, remarked that the disputants had agreed to pass hame and have the samyn [their quarrels] deeydit before the Duke of Egypt."

In 1554 Queen Mary extended to "Johnne Faw" her royal pardon for an act of slaughter. At length the true character of the fraternity being discovered, the Privy Council, on the 3rd April 1573, publicly declared that "the commonweal of this realm was greatumly damnifiet and harmit through certain vagabond, idle and counterfeit people of divers nations, falsely named Egyptians, living on stowth and other unlawful means." Therefore were they charged to settle forthwith in fixed dwellings arid adopt industrial vocations, under the pain of imprisonment and scourging. Three years later the Privy Council in renewing their order accused the gipsies of "commiitting murders and theft, and abusing the simple and ignorant people with sorcery and divination." In the several Acts of Parliament from 1379 to 1609 relating to mendicants, gipsies are classed with them. Sent into exile by a special statute, John Faa, his son James, and several other gipsies were, on the 10th July 1616, sentenced to death for lingering in the country. In 1624 six Faas and two other finale gipsies were executed.

According to the ballad, Johnnie Faa and his "fifteen weel-made men" carried off a Countess of Cassilus.

O come with me, says Johnie Faa,
O come with me, my dearie;
For I vow and I swear by the hilt o' my sword
That your lad shall nae mair come near ye."

The intrigue of Johnnie Faa with the wife of Lord Cassilus rests solely on the authority of the ballad, but tradition points to an old tower at Maybole as a place where the frail countess was confined.

On charges of robbery with violence, and of being habit and repute thieves and terrorists, four gipsies were in the year 1700, tried at Banff. They were severally convicted and executed. One of their number, James Macpherson, the reputed son of a highland gentleman by a gipsy mother, is described as surrendering life in merry fashion:-

"He played a spring an' danced it roun'
Aneth the gallows tree."

During the eighteenth century, acts of violence by gipsy tribes became rare. They travelled in small companies, squatting on commons and unoccupied corners. Latterly they became known as tinkers, from their habit of working in tin and soldering; and repairing culinary utensils. After many uncomfortable wanderings in all parts of the country, and experiencing much oppression, they as a colony sought rest and safety at Yetholm, on the Border. There they hoped that when any of the emissaries of the law sought to enforce their obedience, they might retire into England, or penetrate into invisible recesses. The precaution, justified by their experience, was practically unneeded, for the community has for considerably upwards of a century remained unmolested in their selected home. In their rush-roofed huts on either side of the Bowmont river they occupy two small settlements about half a mile apart. Having abandoned fortune-telling, the women dispose of straw mats, heather brooms, willow baskets, and horn spoons, which their husbands and sons and brothers fabricate. Adopting the manners and customs of civilised life, the present trace are honest, serviceable, and courteous. As the old gipsy speech is forgotten, they use the vernacular. In the community are about eighty persons. They acknovvledge a queen, to whom they show respect and deference. Some of the men work about farms, assist in harvest, and drive coals from the depots to rural dwellings. The women incline to enter domestic service. The children are sent to school, also to church, and are allowed to study the sacred volume. The surname of Faa, formerly common, has ceased. Now the prevailing surnames are Allan, Barclay, Blyth, Brown, Douglas, Gordon, Keith, Kennedy, Montgomery, Ruthven, Shaw, Tait, and Young.

The cave-occupying tinkers of Caithness are not of the gipsy race. They cannot be traced to any district apart from that in which they now reside. They work in tinned ware and manufacture horn spoons.

The native beggar and the gipsy were alike denounced in the statutes, but they had no common sympathies, and lived apart. The condition of the country, in respect of native beggars, is by Fletcher of Saltoun, in 1698, thus described: "There are at this day in Scotland (besides a great many poor families very meanly provided for by the church boxes, with others who, living upon bad food, fall into various diseases), two hundred thousand people begging from door to door, and though the number of them be perhaps double to what it was formerly, by reason of the present great distress, yet in all times there have been about one hundred thousand of those vagabonds, who have lived without any regard or subjection, either to the laws of the laud, or even those of God and nature. No magistrate," he adds, "could ever discover or be informed which way one in a hundred of those wretches died, or that ever they were baptized. in years of plenty, many thousands of them meet together on the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets, burials, and other like public occasions, they are to be seen, both men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and fighting together." ["Political Works of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun," Glas; 1749, p. 100.] Irascible, and disposed to arrive at unwarranted conclusions, Fletcher has, in these details, clearly exaggerated. But vagrancy, at the close of the seventeenth century, was greatly prevalent.

The class of mendicants, described in the earlier statutes as bards and minstrels, had a long succession. George Martine of Clermont, who in the year 16S3 composed his work, Reliquioe Divi Andrea, refers to an order of beggars whom he styles jockies. These recited what he describes as "the slogorne or war-cries," but which were probably fragments of Ossian. By "one of five that usually meet at St Andrews," Martine was informed "that there were not now above twelve of them in the whole isle, but he remembered when they abounded."

In a rare and curious book, published in 1775, the author, James Fea, a surgeon in Orkney, after describing the indolence, wretchedness, and ignorance of people of the lower class in the northern isles, proceeds: "Every Saturday, on which day they are privileged to beg, a troop of miserable, ragged creatures are seen going from door to door, almost numerous enough to plunder the whole town, were they to exert themselves against it in an hostile manner, at least, if their valour was in proportion to their distress."

By an industrious writer in a, recent work have been supplied some interesting details respecting cairds and other sturdy vagabonds, who, from Aberdeenshire and other northern counties, penetrated southward during the eighteenth century. Some of them, in the hope of gain, joined the army of Prince Charles Edward, and after the defeat at Culloden, returned to the lawless courses which they had temporarily exchanged. Of these, one of the most conspicuous was John Gun, who, aided by his wife and other accomplices, pilfered at fairs and robbed solitary travellers. Personally Gun held himself as a sort of a chief. The director of plunderers and resetter of stolen goods, he undertook, on complaints being made to him, to discover lost property and restore it to the owner. The great-grandfather of the present writer, William Roger, having, as a magistrate, acquitted him on a charge insufficiently supported, Gun not long afterwards evinced his gratitude. For at a fair at Cupar-Angus, one of his servants being robbed of the price of a cow he had just sold, Mr Roger desired the bandit to aid in the recovery of the plundered coin. Expressing a readiness to be helpful, Gull sounded a whistle, when several rough-looking persons carne up. After a short parley with them, he produced a handkerchief, in the corner of which was the ploughman's money, not yet opened up. In restoring the plunder, Gun refused all recompence, remarking how much he was pleased that he could render service "to a friend."

Along with three female accomplices Gun was, on the 28th September 1753, arraigned before the Circuit Court at Aberdeen charged as "an Egyptian," which then meant being habit and repute a thief. Testimony was borne by a witness that Gun's wife, Agnes Taylor, or Snipppie, as she was usually called, had undertaken that Gun would discover and restore "any goods stolen in the mercat," on application being made to hire. Other witnesses testified that Gun was chief of "a gang of thieves, or persons without a settled home." All were convicted, and Gun, as the leader, was condemned to execution. But the fatal sentence was not carried out, for a reason explained by Sir Walter Scott. Gun, according to Sir Walter, had determined to plunder a military officer bearing Government money; but on account of sharing the officer's hospitality at an inn he changed his intention and became his protector. This being reported to the Crown authorities, his life was spared. With his wife and daughter he was transported to Virginia his subsequent history is unknown.

Female vagrants were common. Some of these were of stalwart form, also of great strength, which on occasions of conflict they not reluctantly exercised. To wanderers, whether male or female, few farmers ventured to refuse lodgment in their barns, and to common shelter were added a supper of kale and breakfast of brose, also a gowpenfull of pease or oatmeal.

But professional beggars were not wholly dependent on incidental shelter. In every hamlet there was some dwelling in which at small cost they could be entertained and lodged. The orgies which attended a gathering of mendicants at a lodging-house at Mauchline, Burns has made the subject of his "Jolly Beggars." The beggars' hostess at Mauchline was familiarly known as Poosie Nancy; Hence the poet's lines:

"Ae nicht at e'en a merry core
O' randie, gangrel bodies,
In Poosie Nancy's held the splore,
To drink their orra duddies.
Wi' quaffin' an' laughin',
They ranted an' they sang
Wi' jumpin', an' thumpin',
The very girdle rang."

After an existence of three centuries the privileged beggars known as the King's Bedesmen or Blue-Gowns ceased in 1833, or fifty years ago. By the Treasurer-depute of James VI. was in June 1590 supplied to "Mr Peter Young, climosinar, gowns of blew clayth for twenty-four old men, according to the yeiris of his Majestys age." In June 1617 the bedesmen numbered "fiftie-eight aigeit men according to the yeiris of his Majesty's age." One was added to the roll each royal birthday, and at the same time every bedesman received a cloak of cloth of light blue colour, bearing a pewter badge, implying a license to beg. Along with the cloak was granted a leathern purse, containing as many pence or Scottish shillings as the sovereign was in years old. Each bedesman was expected to pray for the preservation of the king's life. Within the last sixty years Kirksessions of northern parishes granted the privilege of begging to widows and others in circumstances of indigence.

The burden of mendicancy upon the industrial classes had become almost insupportable, when in 1812 was established "The Society for the Suppression of Public Begging," which, followed by the establishment of Savings Banks, tended to root out a monstrous evil, also to promote a healthful reaction. By the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1845 and the regulations of the Board of Supervision which followed upon it, begging has been generally overcome. According to the annual statement issued by the Board of Supervision, the registered and casual poor on the 14th January 1884 numbered 96,655, which with an estimated population of 3,848,238 shows 2.51 as the percentage of paupers. To the population the percentage in 1874 was 3.22. The cost of supporting the poor in 1882 was 834,657, each pauper being maintained at the average cost of 8, 11s. 11d.

The patriarchal or tribal system, suitable in celtic times, proved under different conditions a source of mischief. Revered as the father of his family, the chief of a clan received homage and support from his kindred; they personally obeyed him, and identified his interests with their own. And in a spirit of good neighbourhood, worthy of imitation, the larger septs took the lesser under their protection, exchanging for service on the one hand material help upon the other. In ordinary times the arrangement was abundantly satisfactory. But when any single member of a group of clans had cause, real or feigned, to differ with any member of another group, hostilities were engendered which involved the whole, and thereby induced a general confusion. For it was the rule, settled or understood, that the cause of a single, even of the weakest clan might not be surrendered, and that in its support all the power of the confederacy was to be exerted. As by each group the same sentiments were entertained, when an assault was committed by the one, reprisals were forthwith made by the other. Attacks did not consist in open conflict, but in petty annoyances and the appropriation of cattle. And both confederacies maintained their struggle till their herds were wasted.

The spirit of adventure created, and necessity bidding defiance to law, the several clans which had at the first plundered each other afterwards sought to replenish an exhausted treasury by undertaking forays upon the adjacent lowlanders. During the latter part of the sixteenth, the whole of the seventeenth, and the first half of the eighteenth century, no herd of cattle or flock of sheep within twenty miles of the highland border was secure against plunder.

Many of the clams which bordered the lowlands abandoned the ploughshare, and grasped the dirk and claymore. During the Michaelmas moon, plundering parties set forth yearly from the uplands to provide their winter stores. In these nefarious operations wives encouraged their husbands, young women the lads of their affection. Then the plunderers returned with droves of stolen cattle they were hailed with the honours due to successful heroes. In later times when chiefs could not actively approve of the property of those with whom they had no variance being ruthlessly snatched, their displeasure was expressed by a. mild remonstrance.

The practice of cattle-snatching on the part of the clans had reached a height, when in 1594 an Act was passed for the suppression of "wicked thieves and lymmers" of the Highlands and Isles. Among these are named the clans Macgregor and Macfarlane, and seventeen others; also many broken men in the counties of Argyle, Bute, Dunbarton, Stirling, and Perth, and the stewartry of Menteith. Likewise certain roving clans on the Border, particularly those hearing the surnames of Armstrong, Elliot, and Graham.

The clan Macfarlane, occupying the fastnesses on the west side of Loch Lomond, made frequent incursions on the lowlands by night, the moon being proverbially their lantern. Their pibroch of Hoggil Nam Bo, is by Sir Walter Scott rendered thus--

We are bound to drive the bullocks
All by hollows, hirsts, and hillocks,
Through the sleet and through the rain
When the moon is beaming low
On frozen lake and hills of snow,
Bold and heartily we go;
And all for little gain."

According to Captain Burt, it was a saying of the lowlanders that Highland chiefs told out their daughters tochers [dowry] by the light of the Michaelmas moon. Nocturnal marauders formed into parties of from ten to thirty, and proceeded to traverse vast mountain tracts till they reached the field of plunder.

Each clansman became bound by an oath not to receive tascal money, that is, any reward offered by the owners of the stolen cattle in order to their discovery. The oath was made on a drawn dirk, after which the weapon was kissed. Such an oath was not to be broken unless made to a lowlander it was then held to be worthless.

When the executive was feeble, Parliamentary statutes and royal proclamations became practically useless. Nor did the course adopted in 1660 of taking highland chiefs and landowners bound for the peaceable behaviour of their clans suffice in bringing offenders to justice. It became necessary to subsidise the plunderers. As cattle protectors, highland chiefs received from lowland lairds an annual tax. Among those who accepted guarding rents was Cluny Macpherson, chief of a, powerful clan, and whose MS. Memoirs satisfied Sir Walter Scott that in the receipt of protection-money he had become rich.

Another noted cattle-protector was Macdonald of Barrisdale, who, possessed of much personal culture, was not ashamed to receive black-mail and earn it. Those neighbours who refused his help he reminded of their temerity by these lines of Virgil, which were engraved upon his broadsword

"Hae tibi eruct artes; pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis, et debelIare superbos."

The most notable extorter of black-mail was Robert Macgregor, famous as Rob Roy. Second son of Donald Macgregor of the farm of Glengyle, a colonel in the king's service, Rob Roy rented land at Balquhidder and there prospered as a grazier. Like his predecessor on the farm, he levied blackmail from his neighbours as protector of their herds. To resent a harsh legal act he became a marauder. He owed money to the Duke of Montrose, and payment having been rigorously enforced, he determined on revenge. Proceeding to Glen Dochart, he seized the Duke's cattle and plundered rents which had been collected by his chamberlain. Penetrating into the lowlands, he appropriated the herds of those in amity with the Duke, under the plea that they occupied lands which belonged to the Macgregors. When Mr Abercromby of Tullibody's herds were carried off, the laird sought an interview with the marauder, and dining with him on steaks prepared from two of his own cattle, consented to pay the impost which had been claimed.

At Doune in Menteithi, Rob Roy held an annual rent-day. Those landowners who paid mail were made secure for a year, but those who did not remained insecure both in their persons and goods. Henderson, laird of Westerton near Stirling, having failed to renew his mail, was not long afterwards seized on his own grounds and forcibly, borne off. Macgregor was at Balquhidder, but as the distance from Westerton was about twenty miles, the seizing party rested with their prisoner at the hamlet of Kilmahog near Callander. There they compelled their captive to entertain them with liquor, of which they drank copiously. Overcome by their potations they resolved to tarry for the night, but as a precaution against his escape, they removed the laird's shoes and laid him between two of their number, armed with dirks. As they slept soundly, the laird got up, and securing his shoes swiftly accomplished his retreat.

Rob Roy died in 1734 at a considerably advanced age. The most celebrated of highland reivers, he was not the last who extorted tribute. Mr Graham of Gartmore, writing about the year 1746, remarks that the sum of 5000 was then paid annually in black mail, besides 10,000 to persons for protecting cattle against marauders. Among the organizations formed for the suppression of plunderers was the Black Watch, which consisted of six companies of highland soldiers. Established in 17?4 with a complement of 480 men, it was eleven years later constituted as the forty-second regiment.


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