Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Social Life in Scotland
From Early to Recent Times by Rev. Charles Rogers in 3 volumes (1884)


CONVERSING with Principal Robertson about history, Dr Samuel Johnson remarked, "I wish much to have one branch well done, and that is the history of the manners of common life." Towards effecting, in connection with Scotland, what the great lexicographer regarded as important in relation to any country, I early dedicated a share of my attention. From my father, a parish minister in Fife, whose power in delineating the manners of a former age was only surpassed by his acuteness of observation, I derived a first impulse. What in expressive phraseology he delighted to set forth, I with juvenile ardour rejoiced to record; hence commenced those researches which I have sought diligently to sustain and carry out. When, in 1869, my gleanings for nearly a quarter of a century had considerably accumulated, I put them together, in a work, entitled "Scotland, Social and Domestic," which I then published. As my researches were desultory, so was this first record of them; yet the volume. experienced a reception which far exceeded my expectation. There were two salutary results. On the one hand, persons in different parts of the country favoured me with valuable additions; on the other, I was led to pursue many enquiries in more systematic form. And now, reviewing my labours during the last fifteen years, I am not aware that I have allowed to remain unexamined any known work or MS. in which the social condition of the kingdom has been portrayed or even referred to. Nevertheless, I am fully conscious that I have merely touched the subject, not exhausted it.

The history of Scotland is not to be found in the chronicles of her kings, or in the narrative of her contendings with a powerful neighbour; not even in the records of her commerce. While by the blending of Celt and Teuton a distinctive nationality was formed, its development was effected by those who in conflict with a rugged soil and a rigorous climate, struggled diligently for subsistence. What were the earlier and latter surroundings of those who so struggled; how from inconsiderable beginnings the nation acquired that moral and intellectual superiority which induced Professor Rivet, a learned foreigner, early in the seventeenth century, to speak of the praefervidum ingenium Scotorum, it has been my object to discover. Or more plainly, how has a people occupying a mainland 285 miles at greatest length, by 160 miles at greatest breadth, made from age to awe a steady and persistent progress? For at the accession of Robert II. in 1371 the population was about 470,000, while in 1560 it had increased to 700,000; and at the union of the crowns, to 100,000 more. At the political union, in 1707, it was reckoned at 1,100,000, in 1755 at 1,255,663, and in 1791 at 1,514,999. During the following ninety years the numbers more than doubled, the census of 1881 representing a population of 3,735,573. And if progress is to be further estimated by the revenue returns, we would from data supplied in the "Exchequer Rolls" and the "Treasurer's Accounts" estimate the annual receipts in the reign of Alexander III. as not exceeding 30,000 of modern money, and in the reign of James IV. as considerably under 70,000. The Scottish national revenue in 1658 was actually 143,652 sterling. There was a subsequent filling off, the revenue at the Revolution in 1633 not exceeding 100,000, while at the Union it was about 110,700, and on the average of five years thereafter, 122,825. In 1882-3 the state revenues of North Britain amounted, in round numbers, to upwards of nine millions. For a progress so considerable we must search the cot rather than the castle. Too frequently the nobles wasted what the people gathered in. Culture for a time found refuge in the monasteries, but at length corruption supervened, and thereupon arose that overwhelming passion, which swept ruthlessly away that which, fashioned by art, was consecrated by religion. In these pages have been traced the rise and progress of every branch of the social system, and an effort made to show how the usages of one age have influenced the manners of the next, and at length fixed the condition and destiny of the people.

Studying to be succinct, I have avoided prolixity on the one hand, and epigrammatic baldness upon the other. Nor have I burdened the narrative with references which might not strictly indicate the sources whence had been derived materials from which, in the first instance, error had to be purged and fiction eliminated. Therefore when sources of information are not denoted in text or in foot-note, I charge myself with individual responsibility for what has been written. While the work will extend to three volumes, I issue two volumes now, and these will embrace that portion of my subject wherein error is more likely to occur, than in the Chapters which may follow. Till the concluding volume is put to press, one year hence, my portfolio will remain open to receive corrections. Nor will the most rigorous censor be deemed harsh should his remarks tend towards rendering less unworthy of its object a work of which the permanent value must wholly rest upon its substantial accuracy. With the needful appendices, the third volume will embrace a narrative of the national superstitions, along with details of social humour, and of scholastic and literary history. An exhaustive index will be added.

A writer indebted to numerous correspondents during a period of years, may not be expected to present a list of all who by their communications have favoured him. Of those who have helped in the present work, some have passed away; and those who remain will, in the consciousness that they have been useful, doubtless excuse any specific acknowledgment. But it is imperative that I should fulfil an obvious duty by cordially thanking the Keepers of Libraries, the Curators of Museums, and the Secretaries of Public Institutions, who have courteously opened their treasures, and so facilitated my enquiries. In the General Register House I have been so frequent a visitor, that I must have utterly exhausted patience, unless those with whom I came in contact had possessed kindred tastes, and indulged a generous forbearance. From Mr Thomas Dickson, Curator of its Historical Department, I have experienced a full share of that obliging attention which he generously extends to all. In the Justiciary Department, Mr Veitch has refreshed me by genial co-operation, and Mr Malcolm Nicolson by his intelligent aid in the matter of Gaelic derivations. To thank Mr Walter Macleod, the most learned of all in official record searchers, for assistance willingly rendered, is no less a pleasing duty than a hearty satisfaction.

In conclusion, it may be remarked that while what Dr Johnson suggested could not in reference to Scotland, have been accomplished prior to our own times, when the records of the kingdom have been made generally accessible, one precious source of historical materials is still unavailable. The Kirk-session, Presbytery, and Synod Minute Books remain closed in the hands of their custodiers. Some of these commence in times bordering on the Reformation, while nearly all cover the years of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. If under a civil or ecclesiastical enactment these records were calendered, much new light would be reflected on the national history.




Volume 1

Chapter I.
Prehistoric Modes
Chapter II.
Domestic and Social Usages
Chapter III.
Marriage Rites and Customs
Chapter IV.
Births and Baptismal Registers
Chapter V.
Death and Funeral Practices
Chapter VI.
The Land and its Cultivators
Chapter VII.
Rural Life and Manners
Chapter VIII.
The Municipal and Mercantile
Chapter IX.
Arts and Manufactures

Volume 2

Chapter X.
The Parliamentary and Juridical
Chapter XI.
The Ecclesiastical
Chapter XII.
Church Discipline
Chapter XIII.
Public Sports
Chapter XIV.
Games and Pastimes
Chapter XV.
Social Clubs

Volume 3


IN issuing my third and concluding volume, I feel as if parting with an old and cherished friend, with whom I have long enjoyed familiar converse. I have talked about Scotland in its social aspects, and in respect of the usages, manners, and practices of its inhabitants. And in discoursing of these, I have avoided rash and curious speculation. By the aid of an index, in which are included subjects as well as proper names, the reader, it is hoped, will find that topics have been included, in which he is personally interested, and that in a condensed form, facts and particulars are presented not readily to be gleaned elsewhere. Yet I may indulge in no self-gratulation, for I am more than conscious of my abundant shortcomings. Nor will failure cause me any absolute distress, since the undertaking on which I have ventured embraces a field so wide that none have heretofore sought its cultivation.

In the present volume is contained a Supplement, applicable chiefly to the two preceding volumes. In this errors, have been corrected, omissions supplied, and new illustrations gathered in.

In conclusion, let me emphatically say that, in writing about a country very dear to me, I have used every effort, so that its social development might be rightly apprehended alike by strangers and by its sons. Wherein I have fallen short, let the error be ascribed, not to any lack of industry, but to imperfect skill or defective judgment. To all who have supplied me with information, or rendered other assistance, I beg to return my sincere and grateful acknowledgments.

EDINBURGIH, October 1886.

Chapter XVI.
Literary and Scholastic
Chapter XVII.
An Eighteenth Century Correspondence
Chapter XVIII.
Humour and Eccentricity
Chapter XIX.
Chapter XX.
Chapter XXI.
Demons and Apparitions

The Dawsons of Glenara
A Story of Scottish Life in three volumes
Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3

The Dwellings of the Labouring Classes
Their Arrangement and Construction; with the essentials of a healthy dwelling, illustrated by references to the model houses of the Society for improving the condition of the labouring classes, of his Royal Highness the late Prince Consort, of the Royal Windsor Society, and other recent buildings, with plans and elevations of dwellings adopted to towns and to rural districts by Henry Roberts, F.S.A. (1867) (pdf)

Return to our Online Books Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus