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Old Scottish Customs
Chapter IX

Marriage and Funeral customs at Pettie—The Duke of Perth and the Crieff Fair—Fairy doings in Inverness-shire—Curious marriage custom at Ardersier— Superstitious customs at Foderty—The old Scottish game of curling — Farmers’ custom at Elgin — Happy and unhappy feet—Funeral customs at Campsie—Gool Riding in Perthshire.


FORMERLY it was customary when marriages took place in the church of Pettie for the chi5dren of the parish school to barricade the door, and refuse admittance to the party till the bridegroom should either make a present of fourpence to buy a new football, or earn exemption from the custom by kicking the old ball over the church. If the would-be benedict could not achieve the exploit of kicking the ball, and would not pay the. pence, the cleverest fellow, might take off the bride’s shoes, and, thus degraded, the bridegroom was allowed to enter the church.

At funerals also it was a, custom peculiar to this parish to run as fast as possible, so that often persons fell when carrying the body to the grave. Hence in the neighbouring parishes, if rain came on, or if it was wished to quicken the progress of a funeral, it used to be said, “let us take the Pettie step to it. This custom was revived some time ago by the youngsters of the parish at the funeral of a woman known as Camranach-ria-peasanach’s wife, and who had been dreaded and consulted as a witch. Other times other manners, the Pettie step at funerals is now as decorous as that of their neighbours, and the school impost at marriages no longer exists.


In past days, the principal fairs held at Crieff were opened with considerable pomp by the Duke of Perth in person. He held his courts, often in the open air, in the town, and afterwards rode through the market at the head of his guard, and proclaimed his titles at the different marches or boundaries of his property. Many of the feuars were bound by their charters to provide a given number of halbert-men that composed the guard at these fairs, and it was only in later times that their services were dispensed with.


At no very distant period, a belief in fairies and their gambols, existed in Ardersier, Inverness-shire. About 1730, it is said, a man of the name of Munro had a sickly attenuated child, which he and his neighbours considered to be a changeling, substituted by the sportive elves, at an unguarded moment, In place of his own. There is a conical knoll in the carse called Tom Earnais, or Henry’s Knoll, which was famed as the scene of the moonlight revels of Titania and her court; and it was believed, that if the changeling were left overnight on the hillock, the real -child would be found in its stead in the morning. The infatuated father actually subjected his ailing offspring to this ordeal, and in the morning found it a corpse.


The fishermen here marry at an early age, and generally before they acquire the means of furnishing a house, even with the most necessary articles. To compensate in some measure for the deficency, the custom of thrigging, as it is called, was adopted by the young wife, a few days after marriage. She, accompanied by her bridesmaid, visited her neighbours and friends, and they each presented her with some little article of house plenishing, generally a piece of earthenware, usage permitting the visitors to choose what article she pleased.


There is a small spring, which rises in a circular hollow in a solid rock, in the west side of Rhoagie, called Tobar-na-doushunich, the water of which was believed to possess the virtue of indicating whether a sick person shall survive or not. It was taken from the spring before sunrise ; and, after the patient had been bathed or immersed in it. if the water appeared of a pure colour, it foretold recovery; but if of a brown mossy colour, it betokened death. Many years ago, a mother-brought her sickly child, a distance of thirty miles, to the spring. On approaching it, she was startled by the appearance of an animal with glaring eye-balls, leaping into it. The poor mother considered this as a fatal omen. Her affection, however, for her offspring overcame her fears. She dislodged the creature, and bathed her child, after which it slept more soundly than it had ever done before. This seemed to confirm the healing virtues of the well, but the child did not long survive. Within the same period, two friends of a parishioner whose life was-despaired of, went to consult, the spring in his behoof, and to fetch some of the water. On placing the pitcher in it, the water assumed a circular motion from south to west. They returned with joy, and told the patient that there was no cause to fear, as the motion of the water being, from south to west, was-a sure indication that he would recover, whereas, had it been from north to west, he must have died. The person recovered.


The ancient and popular game of curling-, is supposed to be of Continental origin, and that it was introduced into this country by those Flemish emigrants who settled in Scotland, towards the close of the fifteenth century. As St. Andrews is the headquarters, of golf, so is Edinburgh the headquarters of curling; and it was formerly customary for the magistrates of the Modern Athens, to-head a procession to Duddingstone Loch, when the weather was such as to permit of a contest on the ice. In certain districts, females used to take part in the game. At Lamington, in Lanarkshire, the married women frequently matched themselves against the spinsters, and the scientific zeal and skill with which both parties pursued their pastime, created much amusement amongst the bystanders. Curling is played as follows: The curlers range themselves into two opposing parties, and stand opposite to each other. They slide from one mark to another, large stones, of several pounds weight, of a round form, and furnished with wooden handles. The aim of the player is, to lay his stone as close to the mark as possible, and in doing so, to strike away the best placed of his opponents. Each curler is provided with a broom, in order to sweep away the snow, or any other impediment from the ice.


In the middle of June, many of the farmers at Elgin, formerly went round their com with burning torches, in honour of the Cerealia. At the full moon in March, they cut withes off the mistletoe or ivy, made circles of them, kept them all year, and pretended to cure illness with them. At marriages and baptisms, they made a procession round the church with the sun. because the sun wan the immediate object of the Druids’ 'worship.


Friday at Forglen in Banffshire used to be considered a very unlucky day on which t o be married. The expressions, “ happy and unhappy feet,” were made use of by the inhabitants in the interchange of good and bad wishes. Thus, they wished a newly married couple “happy feet,” and as a preventive to misfortunes of any kind, the}' saluted each other by kissing when they chanced to meet on the road to and from the church.


It was formerly the custom in the Campsie district, when the head of a family died, to invite all the inhabitants to attend the funeral. The visitors were served seated on boards in the barn, and by way of commencement were supplied with ale, then followed whisky, after this came shortbread, then some other kind of liquor, then a piece of currant bread, and a third supply either of whisky or wine. After this came bread and cheese, pipes and tobacco. This feast was called a service ; sometimes it was repeated, in which case it was called a double service. However distant any part of the parish was from the place of interment, it was customary fur the attendants to carry the coffin on hand-spokes. The mode of invitation was by a special messenger. This was styled “bidding to the funeral.” No person was invited by letter. The form of words used were,—“You are desired to come to -’s funeral to-morrow against ten o'clock.” Although asked for that early hour the funeral never took place until the evening. It was customary for them to have two Lykewakes, when the young friends and neighbours watched the corpse. These were merry or sorrowful according to the position or rank of the deceased.


Unfortunately for the former inhabitants of Cargill, Perthshire, the fields in this parish were formerly over-run by a weed with a yellow flower called “gool,” which grew amongst the grain especially in wet seasons, and greatly Injured the corn, not only while growing, but during the winnowing of it. Such was the destruction caused by this noxious weed that it became absolutely necessary to adopt some effectual method for getting rid of it. Accordingly an act of the Barons’ Court was passed imposing a fine of 3s. 4d. or a wedder sheep, on every tenant for each stock of gool that should be found growing amongst the corn on a particular day, and certain persons called gool-riders were appointed to ride through the fields searching for gool. Wherever it was found the fine was vigorously exacted.

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