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Scottish Words: A Fairy Tale Glossary


A body: a person
Airt: direction
Ahint: behind

Bairn: child
Baudrons: Scotch name for a cat
Ben: in towards an inner room
Ben: a mountain peak
Bicker: to argue in a petty way
Bonnet-piece: an old Scottish coin
Byre: cowhouse

Canty: kindly, cheerful
Cantrip: a freak, or wilful piece of trickery
Chuckie-stone: a small white pebble
Clout: a blow
Cloving: separating lint from its stalk
Clue: a ball of worsted
Creel: a large hand-made basket
Cutty-pipe: a short clay pipe

Daft: silly, weak-minded
Dander: to walk aimlessly
Darkening: the twilight
Divot: a sod
Doo: a dove
Douce: sedate
Dowie: dull, low-spirited
Dyke: a wall

Eldritch: weird
Emprise: an enterprise
Entry: a passage

Fain: gladly
Feared: afraid
Forbye: besides

Gang: go
Girnel: a meal-chest
Gled: a hawk
Gloaming: the twilight
Greeting: crying

Hantle: very much, a considerable number
Havers: nonsense
Heckle: to comb
Hinnie: a term of endearment
Hirple: to limp
Histie: haste thee

Inbye: inside
Ingle neuk: the corner by the fire

Joists: the beams in a roof

Kailyard: a kitchen garden
Ken: know
Kirn: a churn, to churn
Kist: a chest
Knowe: a little hillock

Lift: the sky, the air
Light: alight
Lintie: a linnet
Lout: to stoop
Lum: chimney
Louping-on-stane: a stone from which to mount a horse

Malison: a curse
Meat: food
Migraine: a pain affecting one half of the head
Mutch: a cap

Onstead: farm buildings

Paddock: a toad or frog
Pirnie: a woollen nightcap
Poke: a bag

Rivlins: shoes made of cowhide

Sen’ night: a week
Shoon: shoes
Siccan: such
Siller: money
Sinsyne: since
Smatchet: small boy
Sneck: to latch or shut a door
Snibbit: bolted, snib, a bolt

Thrapple: throat
Thole: to bear

Unchancy: uncanny
Unicorns: Ancient Scottish coins

Wheen: a few
Wheesht: be quiet
Wight: a person
Winnock: a window
Winnow: to separate the chaff from the grain by wind

Yestreen: yesterday
Yule: Christmas

A Critical Inquiry into the Scottish Language


by Francisque-Michel, 1882

The Scotch language is acknowledged to be a dialect of the Saxon or old English, with some trifling variations; indeed the two languages originally were so nearly the same, that the principal differences at present between them are owing to the Scotch having retained many words and phrases which have fallen into disuse among the English. So says John Sinclair, in the introduction to his “Observations on the Scottish Dialect”; but he seems to overlook that there are many Scotch words and idioms which cannot be traced to an English source. Moreover, he fails to show how the uniformity he points out could have taken place between two countries so long strangers to each other — divisos toto orbe Britannos, if we may say so in a figurative sense—and where a Southron was at a loss to understand a North Briton.

The Scottish and the English languages were both formed in the same manner and of the same elements, but independently of each other. This fact did not prevent them from running in parallel lines without meeting. As might be expected, North Britain was, to a certain extent, peopled by Norsemen; and Jamieson has remarked that among the common people, the names of herbs, in the north of Scotland, are either the same with those still used in Sweden and other northern countries, or are nearly allied. The same observation applies pretty generally throughout Scotland to the names of quadrupeds, birds, and fishes.

A Teutonic dialect was the generally spoken language of Lothian, Merse, and Teviotdale, from the time of David I. When that prince succeeded to the throne, he appears, with a generous and an enlightened policy, to have endeavoured to introduce civilisation into the ruder part of the island, by encouraging the emigration of the Normans into his new dominions. It may be mentioned as a circumstance which confirms, in a striking manner, the above remark regarding this policy, that the names of the witnesses to a charter of William the Lion still extant—Moreville, Fitz Allan, Umfra-ville, Lovel, and De Hay — are all, without exception, of Norman origin.

The men who bore those Norman names did not stand alone in introducing the French language into Scotland, then swarming with English men and women, enticed thither by the liberal policy of the kings. Many who followed the profession of arms reached the country with the wave of foreigners that flowed northward after the Conquest. We, in time, got our own share, says Professor Innes, of those dashing adventurers who introduced among us the customs of chivalry and the surnames they had adopted from their ancestral castles across the Channel.

The courts of David I. and his grandsons were full of knightly men, bearing the names of De Brus, De Balliol, De Morevil, De Umfravil, De Berkelai, De Quinci, De Vipont, De Vaux, and a hundred others ; so that these princes had to recognise the importance of the French element among their subjects. Many of the names of those adventurers have disappeared from the land in which they were once so illustrious, and many of them have been altered past recognition.

The grand old Norman name of De Vesci is now Veitch; De Vere, once still greater, is in Scotland Weir. De Limessay, which is inferior to none of them, has become Lindsay. De Montaut has been transformed into the respectable but not illustrious name of Mowat. De Montfiquet is Muschet, pronounced Muchet in Portugal, to which the family emigrated perhaps at the same time the Gordons settled at Xeres de la Frontera in the wine trade. De Vaux, if it lives still, does so in the shape of Vans, by turning a letter upside down; while De Bellassize, carrying us back to the times of the Crusades, has become Belsize in England, and in yet homelier northern mouths has degenerated into Bellsches. In fine, who could recognise in the name of Wishart the French huissier, corresponding to Doorward, Scotch Durivardf.

We learn from a curious passage in the Latin chronicle attributed to Walter of Coventry, that as early as the reign of William the Lion the Scottish Court had adopted the manners, dress, and even language of France, then fashionable in England. We are also aware that during the long wars in which Robert Bruce wrested the kingdom from the English, many Scottish estates were bestowed by the Southron mon-archs upon their nobles.

It is true that the thorough Court French imported by them never gained much ground in Scotland; and although, doubtless, it was exclusively used by the English settlers of that disturbed period, it seems not to have long survived their departure, when Latin became the universal language of public business, and continued to be so down to the end of the fourteenth century.

But the taste for French manners and language was not utterly lost. It continued to prevail more or less to a comparatively recent period, and must have had a considerable influence on Scottish literature in general. That such was the case at the close of the fourteenth century, there is abundant proof in the various poems composed by Huchowne, which exhibit not only a familiar acquaintance with French compositions, but abound with words and phrases borrowed from the French language.

The Scottish clergy, being generally educated abroad, chiefly at the University of Paris, in spite of the exertions of England in opposition to this custom, imported thence THE SCOTTISH CLERGY. improvements in all the useful arts, with the words pertaining to them, and planted them in Scotland. They cleared the land of brushwood, drained the marshes, enclosed the fields with hedges, made orchards, laid out gardens, erected mills and farm granges, and encouraged their serfs and cottagers to settle in little villages and communities, which they protected and fostered. They were the great architects and builders. Beautiful churches, and princely convents and monasteries, rose under their hands, with a splendour of ornament, and an imposing grandeur of effect, which contrasted with the houses of the nobility, and much more with the huts which crowded round the walls of those huge piles which not unfrequently were called by French names.

The construction of these buildings demanded, and of course encouraged, the arts of numerous workmen and craftsmen. The iron work required the labour of the smith; the timber work, that of the carpenter; the exquisite carved screens and painted windows, the silver shrines and ornamented vestments of the priests, and their processional banners, encouraged the painter, glass-stainer, carver, jeweller, and embroiderer; and by affording these artisans constant employment, increased their skill and ingenuity in their crafts. The domestic arts, too, which might minister to the comfort or comparative luxury of a rude life (for one who studies the progress of society must observe in the statutes of the churches a union of provision for magnificent religious solemnities with the antique simplicity of life and manners in the actors in the pageant), the management of the dairy, the rearing of domestic animals, the erection of dovecots, the enclosure and preservation of rabbit-warrens, and numerous other branches of domestic economy and “outfield” wealth, undoubtedly owed to the Scottish clergy of those remote times their highest improvement, if not their original introduction.

They were, besides, the greatest mercantile adventurers in the country, employing ships which were their own property, and freighting them with their wool and hides, their cured fish and skins, to Bordeaux, Flanders, and other parts of the Continent. For these goods they received in return the silks, spices, and other rarities of the East, along with the richest productions of the Flemish and Italian looms. What has just been said applies chiefly to the wealthier bodies; but in a humbler sphere the mendicant friars likewise contributed their part to the progress of civilisation in Scotland, and deserve to be mentioned. Mostly of low extraction, those orators who boldly delivered their passionate sermons before crowded assemblies, not only in the churches, but in public places, at the corners of the streets, in the open air, and in the fields, had also pursued their studies abroad, chiefly in France, and must have got into the habit of imitating certain preachers on the Continent, who liked to give a relish to their Latin sermons by inserting into them words and sentences in the vernacular.

The most celebrated of those forerunners of the Reformation, Olivier Maillard and Michel Menot, are well known to us, especially since Mons. Antony M6ray has rescued them from oblivion, along with the Alsatian Franciscan Johann Poli, Geiler of Kaisersberg, Cesarius of Heisterbach, Jean Cleree, and Guillaume Pepin; but who remembers those who in Scotland paved the way for Calvin and Knox? Either the fanaticism of the Reformation times has made us lose the very remembrance of those mighty trumpets whose sound had overturned the walls of the ancient Church, or, if the sermons of these forgotten preachers had been collected, the fruits of their eloquence must have been destroyed amid the turmoil that convulsed Scotland during that troublous period.

The fact is, that nothing whatever remains of those Scottish preachers of the Roman Catholic Church, except that we may trace back to them the custom of preaching in the open air. We can therefore only surmise that the friars of North Britain did not act otherwise than their French or Flemish brethren, in whose company a great many of them had pursued their studies ; and that, on their return to Scotland, they had brought over a large number of words and phrases, which, in preference to English terms, were introduced into a language as poor as those by whom it was spoken.

In concluding this picture of ecclesiastical industry and improvement, with its lights and shadows, it must not be forgotten that within the walls of the same religious houses was preserved that small portion of knowledge and literature which was then to be found in Scotland; and that in the cell of the monk, the feeble and wavering spark of science was saved at least from utter extinction. “Ptholome, Averois, Aristotal, Galien, Ypocrites, or Cicero, quhilk var expert practicians in mathematic art,”  — their names at least — were known to Scottish clergymen; but their works did not leave the shelves of the monastic libraries, on which they were very seldom displaced, while the French romances, that lay by them, very often found their way to the feudal mansions, and sowed there many words and idioms which were afterwards transplanted into the national language.

We will only mention a single instance, which is supplied by an archdeacon of Aberdeen. From many passages in his great poem, Barbour appears to have been, like Dunbar after him, well read in the romances of the day, as well as in classical literature. The fidelity of the wife and of the sister of Bruce, as well as that of the wives of his companions, is illustrated by a parallel instance of female heroism taken from the Romance of Thebes:

Men redys when Thebes wes tane,
And King Arista’s men wer slane
That assailyt the citd,
That the women of his cuntrd
Come for to fetch hym hame agane
Quhen thai hard all hys folk wes slayne.

On another occasion, alluded to in the life of Bruce, when the king, by an exertion of great personal strength and courage, escapes from the attack of John of Lorn, this Celtic chief, with much propriety, alludes to an adventure which befell Golmak Morn, or Gaul the son of Morni, a hero of Irish story; but Barbour, judging from the name, a poet of Norman blood and nursed in the lap of romantic fiction, observes it would have been *’ mar manerlyk,” or more appropriate, to have compared him to Gaudifer de Laryss:

Quhen that the mychty Duk Betys Assailyeit in Gadyrs the forrayours, And quhen the king thaim maid recours, Duk Betyss tuk on hym the flycht That wald ne mair abide to fycht; Bot gud Gaudiffer the worthy Abandonyt hym so worthily For hys reskew, all the fleirs And for to stonay the chassers, That Alexander to erth he bar. And alswa did he Tholimar And gud Coneus alswa, Dankline alswa, & othir ma; Bot at the last thar slayne he wis. In that failyeit the liklynes.

A little further on we are presented with the romantic picture of the king reading to his faithful friends, as they sat on the banks of Loch Lomond, the romance of the worthy Fer- ambrace with the brave Oliver and Duke Peris, who were besieged by the Soldan Lawyne, or Laban, in the renowned city of Egrimor or Agramore, on the river Flagot :

Throw the rycht doughty 0lywer, And how the Duk Peris wer Assegit intill Egrymor, Quhar King Lawyne lay them befor, With ma thousands then I can say: And bot elewyn within war thai And a woman — that war sa stad That thai na mete thair within had, Bot as thai fra thair fayis wan. Yet sa contenyt thai thaim than That thai the tower held manlily, Till that Rychard of Normandy. Mare hys fayis warnyt the king, That wis joyful off this tything: For he wen’d thai had all bene slayne, Tharfor he turnyt in hy agayne, And wan Mantrybill, & passit Flagot, And syne Lawyne and alle his flote Dispitously discumfyt he, And delevyrit hys men al free.

This romance of Fierabras, which derives an additional interest from its having been a favourite book with Bruce, must have been, from the similarity of the names, the Norman French original of the same story, which has been epitomised by Ellis in his Specimens of the Early English Metrical Romances. Sir James Douglas, and probably many of the barons who followed the king, had been educated in France, and were well acquainted with the French romances of the time; of which Fierabras, from the variety of its incident, and the humorous descriptions in which it abounds, was one of the most popular. In later times, the institution of the Scottish body-guard and the settlement of some of its members in France, in which they planted new branches of their families, and from which they kept up a correspondence with their relatives in Scotland; and the successive emigrations of Roman Catholics faithful both to their religious convictions and political principles, combined with other minor circumstances, fully detailed in a book of ours, Les Ecossais en France, les Frangais en Ecosse,’ must have been the means of maintaining a close and constant inter- course between the two countries, and thus of adding a certain amount of French idioms to the stock already in existence in North Britain, and of giving refinement to a country whose civilisation required improvement, even at the beginning of last century.

Our conclusion therefore is, that French literature, being thus spread in Britain as well as in the rest of Europe, was a natural channel for the introduction and diffusion of French words into the Scottish language. The northern and the Gaelic elements in the Scottish language will be dealt with in an Appendix. It is proper to state at the outset that we treat not merely of the popular element in Scottish derived from French, but of the literary and what may be called the technical element in the language. There is no doubt but that Dunbar and other sixteenth -century poets affected a Frenchified style, and that many of the words used by them never became folk-words. This affectation of what was of France, however, only goes to strengthen our position—the influence France exercised over the civilisation of Scotland.

The same remark must be made regarding many, if not the greater part, of the terms used in law, medicine, building, hunting, etc. Not only the learned professions, but also those engaged in the different callings common to the country, seem to have borrowed, under the influence of France, the technical terms of their professions and callings. It may be safely stated that not a few of the words discussed were at one time words of the people, but that they have fallen into disuse by the substitution of others, or from a change of the circum- stances that called them into use. Some of the words have lost their primary meaning, but still linger as folk -words with a figurative sense. Thus runcy is still applied in Banffshire, and, it may be, in other districts, to a woman of coarse manners and doubtful character. Morthead is another word to the point.

Saving Marytown

Saving Marytown
Saving Marytown

Though I set the windshield wipers on the fastest interval, they can not keep up with the rain. With each flash of lightning, I see farmhouses, barns, and silos scattered over 300 acres known as Calumet County, the Menominee word for peace pipe. This land was once home to Red Bird, a war chief who surrendered to the US Army in 1828 to save the surviving members of his tribe from slaughter. This is also where the Brothertown Indians settled after displacement from New England in 1831.

I am driving through the back roads of land rich in history, but the road signs are not clear. I remember where I am headed since I’ve been here on a spring day less than a year ago when the lilacs were in full bloom. I remember that day now as cascades of water threaten to wash away the dirt lane in front of me. We are in the last vehicle of a lengthy caravan. My companion doesn’t want to lose sight of the car in front of us. We are making our way to an old German immigration town — a farming community with a strong Catholic history — in the heart of Wisconsin. Soon we will enter the village of Chilton, where his father grew up, but we won’t stop there. We will pass through and onward a few more miles until we reach Marytown, where his mother was born and raised.

These communities are tough to locate on a map, but they have become towns I know by heart. Wisconsin is mostly flat country, but in Marytown, a brick church sits high on a rare hilltop. Well over a hundred years old, its steeple towers above the landscape. Out here, Saint Mary’s Church is an architectural giant seen from miles away on a clear day. To some, it is a structure hardly noticed while en route to Minnesota or Illinois. To the people of Marytown, it is the center of their lives. This is the place where they are baptized and schooled. It is where they marry and attend Sunday mass. It is also where their lives are celebrated one last time before they are laid to rest on the sloping grounds of an adjacent graveyard.

On this night, we park halfway up a precarious pavement and run uphill under a shared umbrella. It is warm inside, but the storm is relentless as wind roars against stained glass windows. The candles do not flicker. These walls are as strong as the people of Marytown that have gathered to build a wall of support around a grieving family. As the funeral begins, volunteers set out food in the cellar of an old schoolhouse across the property. After the last prayers and hymns, we go there to sit for a pot-lucked feast in honor of the departed. This last meal has been a burial tradition in Marytown for as long as everyone can recall, and longer than the church has been standing.

It was a lovely funeral. She had a marvelous life and had been happy. She wed a good man and had many children who remained near her until the end. In a few years, I will discover her farmhouse sold to a young Quaker family. They will tear down the dilapidated barn to make room for a new wood shop used to craft some of the most exquisite furniture this side of the Mississippi. I will drive by on a summer’s day and see youthful faces pressed in the tall windows, children pushing to get a view of me. I will speak to their father about his handcrafted tables and chairs, but he will not know I knew the woman who lived in the house before him. And I will grin when I see the house has come alive again with a new roof and fresh paint.

We are leaving Calumet County now, heading east. The rain has finally stopped, and the moon is low. Soon this dirt road will give way to two lanes, then four. In an hour, we will be back in the city where I am abruptly reminded that living in congested spaces does not always encourage a healthy lifestyle. Instant gratification, one of the proposed benefits of a large metropolis, is not a guarantee of happiness. The promise of a better life through consumerism is an illusion that is actually causing chronic illness. The quest for bigger, faster, and better things has increased our standard of living, but it has also taken us away from a simpler life and the support of our families and communities.

If it were possible, many Americans would leave the cities and buy their farms back. But who can afford that now? Corruption in our government has led to a rise in homelessness and our crumbling infrastructures. We can’t blame global warming for it. Powerful financial interests have subverted our government of the people, by the people, for the people. We sold our farms and land for the modern conveniences of cities, and in doing so, the wealth of the middle class shifted to a corporate oligarchy. Their greed has resulted in financial insecurity for most Americans. Corporate interference in our laws, policies, and Constitutional protections is leading to the collapse of our civil society.

Throughout its history, Americans have engineered incredible things that cannot be discounted. We designed marvelous structures and established markets for many practical things. But we also mass produced a gluttony of frivolous products that harm life and ecosystems. Perhaps the single most damaging outcome of our lack of foresight is the unchecked rise of corporate power. The earth is being pillaged by corporations, while shareholders hide behind their corporate veils. They made America a world leader, but their strategic financial ruin of small businesses and weakening of laws and government agencies has led to its downfall.

A series of bad policies have made US cities look like foreign battlefields. It is expected that we will soon be willing to accept whatever help is offered. But AI won’t be our savior. It will facilitate more corporate control over us, and the end of US sovereignty. We will be tempted away from cash to digital currencies, just as our great-great grandparents were lured from family farms to factories. A new deity, the God of Electricity, will emerge from the 4th Industrial Revolution, powering and connecting all things. Once more, we are promised a better life if we let go of the old ways and embrace the new. To achieve Utopia, sacrifices are necessary. But Utopia is a fairytale.

I’m not hearing anything about a plan to rebuild America or a call for innovation. The future is in the hands of tech corporations and stakeholders who are ringing the opening bell on new markets. We’re supposed to trust them blindly with our personal information and democracy.

Trusting them would be a mistake. AI must not be used to bring back feudalism. The past teaches us we are more vulnerable when fewer people hold the power over our collective.

Unlike WW1 or WW2, the crisis we’re facing now is not happening in a distant country. The war is on its way to Marytown and to every small town like it. Unless we act soon, Marytown will cease to exist.

Old Houses

Old Houses
Old Houses

It is a humid Tuesday in July, and I am standing on the shoulder of a dirt road in Northeast Wisconsin. I stepped out of my truck to take a photograph of a farmhouse I noticed rotting away next to land that has not seen a crop in years. It is a quiet afternoon, one that reminds me of summers when there was nowhere I had to be and no way to get there except by bicycle. Today, all that can be heard is the gravel beneath my feet as I work my way down a potholed driveway. I stop under a tree that spans two floors. In a place the world has forgotten, where cars speed by on a freeway on the horizon less than a mile away, this abandoned property is more like art. The last time I saw such a well-crafted home, it was for sale in bits and pieces at an architectural antique store in Michigan. I snap a few more pictures, knowing I can never capture how this place makes me feel.

Even with its bubbled paint and sagging foundation, this old giant is more statuesque than the modern homes I have seen crammed too close together in the city suburbs. I have spotted many houses just like this one while driving America’s interstates and back roads. Some had boards on the windows, others were overtaken by ivy with sunken roofs and half-hinged doors. Even as they decomposed, the porches still welcomed a weary traveler, and the gardens were still spurting up wildflowers between the weeds.

There’s something about an old house that makes me feel safe. Maybe it is because it has withstood so many storms – stormy weather and the storms of life. A friend told me she once bought an old house after her divorce because she wanted to surround herself with things that had been loved before and not discarded for their age. To her, the creaky old floors and pipes gave her more comfort than a new home with all of its modern features. An old house will hug you, she told me. And she liked to fall asleep feeling embraced.

I cannot help but think this house was someone’s beginning. This was someone’s marvellous story. I notice a rusted weathervane slowing spinning in a light breeze, and the remains of a dried-up well that speaks of chapters gone by. I lean back on a wobbly railing, and I wonder, what happened in this house? Was there love here, and were they happy? Did someone sit on this porch on a warm Wisconsin night and wish on a falling star? What did they wish for? Did they get it?

I imagine pumpkins sitting on the wide ledge of the porch, and fall leaves piling up around the bottom stairs. We do not build houses like this anymore. This spot seems like the perfect place for a first kiss. If I stood here 50 years ago, what would I hear and see? Would the smell of baked peach pies drift through an open kitchen window? Would I hear the laughter of family and friends celebrating a college scholarship or the birth of a child? Have these doors been slammed in a fit of teenage defiance? Did the cellar shelter a farmer’s family while a tornado ripped through his fields?

Sometimes I need to take a closer look at things from the past to get a better vision of my future. If a home like this can end up abandoned just moments outside of a bustling city, it makes me face the reality that there is an end to every story. Old houses surrender to nature with such grace. We can learn something from it. There is beauty in the way grand things bend back into the cycle of life. Genuine beauty is always visible, it only becomes a different kind of beauty. Even in its final stages, this house remains the epitome of a traditional American home.

Looking in my rear-view mirror, I see the first shadows of dusk have fallen over the property. Although good beginnings are beautiful to have, maybe it is even more essential to find a good place to end. Maybe if I were to make a wish on a falling star tonight, my wish would be this; that we all find a good place to end. I would wish for a porch like this and a house like this on the outskirts of a busy world. It would be the perfect place for one last kiss.

The Places We Come From


I was born and raised in Kodiak. For those who aren’t familiar, it is an island in the gulf of Alaska, 100 miles long by 10 miles to 60 miles wide. A large percentage of the island is wilderness and includes 7 major rivers. Another 100 smaller streams cross deep valleys or fall from mountains that reach up to 5,000 feet in elevation. It is the habitat for 6 salmon species and over 250 species of birds. Other native animals include the famous Kodiak brown bear, red foxes, river otters and small brown bats.

Anchorage, the nearest city, is about an hour by plane. By boat, the next port is Homer, which takes at least 10 hours to reach, but only if the weather is good.

Kodiak is remote. And in my youth, all I wanted to do was escape from it, especially during my teenage years when it felt like the entire world was happening and I was not. I felt I was far away from everything cool. I was thousands of miles away from rock concerts, fashionable clothes, newly released movies, trendy haircuts, and the glory of roads that didn’t end at the base of a mountain or on a beach looking out across the Pacific.

During the winters, it was dark, cold, and wet. I huddled near the wood-burning stove at night, reading a book and listening to the wind gusts ripping down the mountain and shaking the roof tiles loose. During summers, my friends and I would collect driftwood at night and use it to build huge bonfires on the beaches of Monashka Bay or Pasagshak. All the while, I was anticipating an opportunity to leave.

My parents expected I would go when my chance came. I remember having coffee on the front porch with my father when he told me I should go if I felt there was nothing for me on the island. So, I left on a frosty October morning. All my belongings were secured to the top of an old Ford Bronco, and I left after saying goodbye to my parents. I drove up an old ferry ramp and took a seat in the galley aboard the MV Tustumena. During the long windy night (much of it spent vomiting while hanging on to a rope tied above a toilet), the boat rose and fell with each wave until it reached the mainland. By 6 a.m., I was on a frosty gravel road that stretched for 2,480 miles through Alaska and Canada, en route to Seattle.

The world was at my feet.

Since that day, although I have returned to the island many times, I never made it home again. The place that once existed, the community that built the woman I have become, is no longer there. Kodiak has changed, and I did not change with it.

I am settled in Europe now and a few days ago, my mother sent me some snapshots taken from a drone. Vivid images showed my hometown’s largest annual event, the Kodiak Crab Festival. In a repurposed harbour parking lot, the image showed familiar shacks lined up in rows just the way I remember – a grand, but tiny festival tucked between Marine Way and the St. Paul Harbour. My best childhood memories were made there.

Since leaving Alaska, I have been to many festivals. I have observed everything from the Pulaski Polka Days in Wisconsin to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the Durango Bluegrass Festival in Colorado to the Bundesgartenschau Horticulture Festival in Germany. I have celebrated many things in as many regions, but none compare to the picturesque views of the festivals in Kodiak and the colourful fair rides, sights and sounds cradled between a lush green mountain and the choppy blue-green-grey ocean.

When I moved to the United Kingdom years ago, a companion asked me what I thought when I remembered home. I brushed off the question by asserting, “fish, of course,” but I was not truthful. I miss the fish, but when I think of home, I see the faces of the people I once knew.

I see Mr. and Mrs. Mosley opening their front door when I delivered their newspaper, pulling me inside to warm up on a rainy or snowy day. I sat with them many times drinking hot cocoa and listening as they spoke of their son stationed far away with the military. I see George, my favourite city worker, waving to me from an oil truck on a warm summer’s day as he made his way down the dirt road in front of our house, spraying oil on the dust to keep it down. I see Mr. Springfield in his cardigan sweater, standing behind the counter at Dad’s Ark Jewellery store, telling me it is OK to touch all the lovely pieces of delicate ivory and gold. With excitement, he told me about each treasure in such detail that I understood most of their value was in the story of their craftsmanship. I remember the Blair family, how their house seemed to grow bigger and bigger until nobody thought it could hold any more people or love, and yet it always would with each new addition to their family. I see Mr. Ardinger, the proprietor of the fanciest store in our little town, smiling at me as he rang up my first guitar, a beautiful Fender Del Mar.

After many years of wandering around the world, usually alone, and moving house (40 times, to be exact), I now understand what I could not appreciate when I was younger – the value of community.

The Kodiak of my youth was a network of love. In all the places I have lived, there is none like the fishing community that raised me. Even as I write this, I imagine there are teenagers on the island wishing they could catch the next flight out. Someday, they might. But part of me wants to warn them it will be a one-way ticket; for all the things that once were will fade away after they leave. It will happen gradually; an old building will be torn down, and a new one will go up. A sweet shop will close its doors. A field of wildflowers will be ploughed over. They will be old like me by the time they notice.

I have seen such wondrous things in my travels, but I have encountered them all as an outsider. I am always the stranger in a new place. So often, I have wished I could pack up everything I have seen and bring the bundle back home in some sort of magical suitcase. I would pack up the Silver Swan from the Bowes Museum, the delicate remnants of the oldest road in Rome, the golden yellow fields of blooming Brassica Napus flowers seen through the windows of a train heading north from London. I would bring home the smell of rain in Durango, the sound of birds flying south from the shores of the Great Lakes, and the sunrise view from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne when the sea parts and a land bridge appears.

I would pack up these things, and so much more, and gently push them into a collection of vintage and mismatched steamer trunks. Then I would retrace my steps backwards and rewind time to board that same old ferry for a return trip to the island.

Imagine the surprise on everyone’s face when I set up my spot at the Kodiak Crab Festival. They would see me beaming with joy in a little hut somewhere between the Ferris wheel and the cotton candy stand, a tiny, magical hut that somehow held all the magnificent things I encountered on my travels.

Sometimes Island

Sometimes Island
Sometimes Island

(NOTE: Sometimes Island is part of Kodiak Island in Alaska, USA. The island is only reachable during low tide, when a short and narrow land mass appears).

I am remembering me
the person I used to be long ago
Sometimes Island
sometimes you
sometimes the wild berries
and the pushki

trials before technology
before buildings and boulevards
the beaches where we dreamed
the love we made and left behind
on beds of moss in the underbrush,
where fall covered the place in leaves
and winter entombed our passion
burying in ice and snow, the seeds
of memories that would grow
as sweet as the salmonberries in august
the ones we ate along the way

I knew we were losing more than us
with every step we took back through
the low bushes that scratched my arms,
and left these scars
the ones I touch when I remember
like I am remembering
the people we used to be
sometimes crazy
sometimes scared
sometimes together but alone

I am looking for the trails
that wind back up the mountainside
through fireweed and sticky spruce
to find the place where we left off
it is here some place
I know it is
and it pulls me back again and again
to dig up earth and rip up grass
fistfuls of dirt and ash

help me pull up these roots
that lay across our overgrown ways,
my island, she remembers me
she sealed my laughter inside
the rings of her trees,
and lay moss over my footprints
I hear her playing with the wind
singing with Three Sisters,
”Come home.”

When You Return


When you return,
your hair will be longer
and your Koniag skin darkened
from the sun’s reflection
shining off the Pacific Ocean.

“Ukalah!” I will hear you shout
as the boat pulls into the unloading dock.
You’ll be standing on the deck of the Gallant Girl
in worn out deck loafers and weathered jeans.

I can imagine you now, squinting,
searching the horizon.
I think you must wonder if it is worth it all,
though I know you could never quit it,
this way of life, your raison d’être.

It is in your blood, like it was
in your father’s before you.
And you court these Northwest waters
like she is your secret mistress,
always leaving me for her,
leaving me to understand
she is the one you fell in love with first.

To you, it is just another salmon season
in Kodiak, another summer
of late night deliveries
and storms spent in bays,
openings and closings,
the herring, the salmon,
the humpy grind.

Another set with
sweat rolling down
your windburned face.
Blackened spit,
a cup of coffee in your fist.
You’ll step into the skiff
and joke with the crew,
hoping for a good catch
and a good price,
though we both know
you’d still go out
if neither was good.

(be careful).

Gwi utaqaluni
(I wait)
for when you return.

(our way of life).

Clan Bruce


Our Patriot monarch, King Robert the Bruce, belonged to the Norman family De Bruis, which, in the person of Robert De Bruis, came to England with the Conqueror in 1066. This knight received the lands of Skelton in Yorkshire, and his son, Robert, who was an associate of the prince who afterwards became David I. of Scotland, obtained the Lordship of Annandale.

At the Battle of the Standard (1138) Robert Bruce fought on the English side; while his son, Robert, 2nd of Annandale, fought under David and was taken prisoner, it is said, by his own father. He had two sons, Robert and William. Robert, the elder, died before 1191. William, his brother and heir, died in 1215, and was succeeded by his son, Robert, 5th Lord, who died in 1245, having married Isabella of Huntingdon, great-granddaughter of King David I. Their son, Robert de Bruce, was in 1255 nominated one of the Regents of the Kingdom of Scotland, and guardian of Alexander III. In 1290 he claimed the Crown of Scotland, as nearest heir of King Alexander III. King Edward I. overruled all the pleas of Bruce, and adjudged the Kingdom of Scotland to Baliol, whose claim was strictly the preferable under the law of succession attributed to King Malcolm Mackenneth. Bruce died in 1295, aged eighty-five. His eldest son, Robert de Bruce, was born in 1245 and died in 1304.

By Margaret, Countess of Carrick, his wife, he left a large family – His eldest son, ’Robert the Bruce, born 11th July 1274, asserted his claim to the Scottish Crown (which had fallen vacant by reason of Baliol’s disgraceful renunciation of his throne). He ascended the throne of his ancestors, and was crowned at Scone, 27th March, 1306. After many vicissitudes, the power of King Robert I. was finally cemented by his splendid and decisive victory at Bannockburn, 1314. He died at Cardross, in Dumbartonshire, 7th June, 1329, aged fifty-five; he was interred in the Abbey Church of Dunfermline.

The Earl of Elgin, descended from Bruce of Clackmannan, who sprang from a cousin of King Robert’s, is now acknowledged chief of the family. His seat is at Broomhall, in Fife, and the old fortalice of his house, Clackmannan Castle, is a picturesque tower whose battlements still overlook the valley of the Forth. The Earldom was conferred in 1633 on Thomas, 3rd Lord Bruce of Kinloss, who descended from Sir David Bruce, 7th Baron of Clackmannan.

(T. INNES 1938)

History of the Plague in Scotland

The Old Woman

(This has not been edited from its original print, including spelling and format).

Up to the middle of the fourteenth century, Scotland, owing, it may be assumed, to the temperate habits of the people as well as to the salubrity of its climate, was free from the plague, that awful scourge which, in other countries, had long been dreaded as one of the chief causes of the misery of the people. It is especially noted by the biographer of St. Columba, and repeated by Buchanan, that, in the seventh century, when terrible pestilence, “ such as was never recorded by any writer before”, afflicted all Europe and spread even through South Britain, the Scots and Picts, who inhabited the northern part of the island, were alone spared the direful visitation. Its first appearance is chronicled by Wyntoun, under date of 1349:

In Scotland the first Pestilence
Began, of so great violence
That it was said, of living men
The third part it destroyed then;
After that within Scotland

A year or more it was wedand (raging),
Before that time was never seen
pestilence in our land so keen;
Both men, and bairnies, and women,
It spared not for to kill them.

Some additional details are supplied by Fordun, who states that, “by God’s will this evil led to a strange and unwonted kind of death, insomuch that the flesh of the sick was somehow puffed out and swollen, and they dragged out their earthly life for barely two days. Now this everywhere attacked especially the meaner sort and common people; seldom the magnates. Men shrank from it so much that, through fear of contagion, sons, fleeing as from the face of leprosy, or from an adder, durst not go and see their parents in the throes of death.”

There can be no doubt that this terrible epidemic disease was the black death. It came from the East, whence its devastating progress can be traced until its appearance in Dorsetshire, in August, 1348. It soon spread through the whole kingdom. For a time its progress was arrested by the Scottish Border; and “the foul death of the English’’ is said to have been at the time a favourite oath with the Scots, who felt a malicious pleasure in the calamity that had overtaken their old enemies. It was they themselves who, by making a reckless raid into England, brought the black death into their own country, where the mortality which it spread is probably not over-estimated by Wyntoun. In 1362 there was a new outbreak of the “death sickness”. Fordun states that it raged exceedingty throughout the whole kingdom of Scotland, and that it was in all respects like the earlier visitation, both in the nature of the disease and in the number of those who died. Wyntoun contributes the further information that it began at Candlemas, and continued to the Yule or after; and that King David and the Bishop of St. Andrews, with their respective suites, retired, the one to Kinloss, in Moray, the other to Elgin, and remained in the purer air of the north land all the time that the “ Dede” was desolating the south.

Of the third visitation of the pestilence, that of 1380, Wyntoun gives no details in the two lines which he devotes to the mere mention of it; but its origin and duration are indicated by Buchanan. He states that William, the first Earl of Douglas, having raised an army of twenty thousand men, invaded England, and came suddenly on a fair days to a town called Penrith, which he entered, plundered, and burnt; that he then, without molestation, marched his army back again, laden with much spoil; but that he brought the pestilence home with him, “ which was greater than any that had ever been known before, for it raged all over Scotland for the space of two years”. Wyntoun, that sinister pre-eminence is claimed for the plague of 1401, of which he says that it was

“more fearful than memore
wass had of the three before.”

And the reason which he gives in justification is that, whereas the spread of the disease had hitherto been gradual, on this occasion “it would overtake all lands” at the same time. Thus, as he grimly expresses it,

“That pestilence gart many banes
In kirk-yardis be laid at ance”

When the pestilence next appeared it had assumed so wholly different a character that Bower calls it “ pestilentia volatilis”. The name seems to be fully justified by the few details that are to be gathered as to its progress. Having first broken out in Edinburgh in 1430, it continued its deadly work till, at least, the year 1432, when there is record of its having raged in Haddington. Its erratic nature may further be inferred from the fact that the Parliament, which was held in Perth in 1431, enacted that the collectors of the land-tax should present their accounts in that city on the second of February next to come, provided the pestilence were not there; but if it were there, at St. Andrews.

The early years of the sixteenth century were marked by an outbreak of the pestilence in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood. As evidence of that there is a quaint entry in the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, who, in 1503, disbursed ten shillings for “ translating” the lining of some of the King’s gowns, “for caus William Ferry, furrour, was suspect with pestilence”. In July of the following Year, when King James IV was on his way from Stirling to the capital, he gave three shillings “to the pur folkis of Linlithqw that wer put furth of the toun”; and ieght pence “to the seik folkis at Edinburgh”, Three months later, when the Queen was at Dunfermline, a plague-scare was the cause of her sending for eleven carts to transport her “gear”, and that of the Englishmen who were with her, to Lindores. But it appears to have been discovered that there was no real cause for alarm, and that the four pounds, eight shillings of expenses had been wasted, for “syne scho departit nocht”. In the same year, from the twentythird of August to St. Luke’s Day, that is, to the 18th of October, Curry, the King’s Jester, being “suspect of pestilence”, was, together with his man, kept “furth beside Stirling”. And that in his case, the suspicion was only too well founded, may be inferred not only from his long isolation of fifty-five days, but also from the fact that, on his discharge, both he and his man were provided with coats, shoes, and blankets, presumably to replace others that had been burnt, with a view to preventing infection.

That this visitation of the plague, though apparently not general, was exceedingly severe locally, is made apparent by a letter which Alexander Craufurd, the preceptor of St. Anthony’s, in Leith, wrote to the General of the Order. The plague, he says, has carried off all the brethren except himself and another; their lands in town are untenanted, their fields untilled, and they themselves deprived of the alms of the faithful; they are unable through poverty to attend the general chapter of the Order. Not only does the writer beg to be absolved by his superior for having, from necessity, failed in the performance of that duty, he also craves to be dispensed from attendance for the next three years. And, in order to save his house from total extinction, he requests permission to initiate novices in place of the brethren deceased.

In 1545, Hertford’s invasion of Scotland aggravated by the introduction of the plague which, as is known from a letter of his to Henry VIII, had broken out in his army and spread through the Borderland. That it reached Edinburgh appears from an ordinance of the Privy Council, which directed that the Court of Session should remove to Linlithgow. The precautions adopted by the Magistrates of Glasgow in 1574 indicate the presence, in that year, of the dread disease along the east coast of Scotland. By an order issued in October, they forbade all intercourse with Leith, Kirkcaldy, Dysart, and Burnt island. As Edinburgh was not yet suspect, except as to Bell’s Wynd, it was thought sufficient to require testimonials from persons coming thence. Infringement of the latter regulation was to be punished by a fine of ten pounds, of the former by death. A month later, the pestilence had made such further progress in the capital that the meeting of the Court of Session and of Parliament was postponed for several months. But the century was to be marked by a visitation far more serious than these local outbreaks. It continued for nearly four years. As was frequently the case, it came from over the sea; and a “creare “, or cutter, that arrived at Easter Wemyss in 1584 was believed to have been the first cause of it. In 1585 it was at its worst in Edinburgh. It was reported as raging at Niddrie in 1586; and in the following autumn Leith, which had been amongst the first of the Firth ports to suffer from its ravages, was, after a short respite, again devastated by it, owing to the ‘opening of some old kists”. Not till the month of December of that year was the Privy Council able to announce that the country was at length free from the fearful scourge, and that the College of Justice, which had again been transferred to Linlithgow, was to resume its sittings in the capital.

Calderwood states that in 1585 some twenty thousand persons died of the plague in Edinburgh alone. That is obviously an exaggeration. Robert Birrel’s estimate is far more moderate. He reports that of those who were unable to flee when first it was known that Simeon Mercerbank’s house was infected, there succumbed one thousand four hundred and odd, a number more in proportion to the mortality of Perth, which the chronicle of that city sets down at one thousand four hundred and twenty-seven, and of St. Andrews, where Moysie records that “upwards of four hundred people died”. As to the desolate appearance of the capital whilst the plague was raging in it there is the testimony of James Melville, who passed through it in November, on his way from Berwick, where he had been living in banishment for a time, to a General Assembly that was to be held in Linlithgow. “We came riding in at the Watergate”, he says, “up through the Canongate, and rade in at the Netherbow, through the great street of Edinburgh to the West Port, in all whilk way we saw not three persons, sae that I miskenned Edinburgh, and almost forgot that I had ever seen sic a town.”

Maister Gilbert Skeyne, Doctour in Medicine, who wrote Ane Breve Description of the pest of 1586, and who had been induced to do so by “seeand the puir in Christ inlaik (succumb) without assistance of support in body, all men detestand aspection, speech, or communication with them”, has given a sad picture of the inhuman selfishness which such a visitation engendered. “Every ane he says, “ is become sae detestable to other (whilk is to be lamentit), and specially the puir in the sight of the rich, as gif they were not equal with them touching their creation, but rather without saul or spirit, as beasts degenerate from mankind. “ In his enumeration of “the causis of pest”, Dr. Skeyne supplies details from which some notion may be formed of the unsanitary conditions that prevailed in Scottish towns at the time. “The cause of pest in ane privat Citie “, he writes, “is stink and corruptioun and filth, quhilkis occupeis the commune streittis and gaittis, greit reik of colis without vinde to dispache the sam, corruptioun of Herbis, sic as Caill and grow and Treis, Moist heuie sauer of Lynt, Hemp, and Ledder steipit in Vater. Ane privat house infectis ather of stinknd closettis, or corrupte Carioun thairin, or neir by.’

If the most effective of preventives, sanitation, was practically ignored by municipalities no less than by individuals, the Government displayed considerable zeal and vigour in its efforts to prevent the introduction of the plague when it became known that it was prevalent in any country with which Scotland held intercourse. If the northern counties of England were affected, instructions were sent to the Wardens of the Marches to prevent Englishmen from crossing the Border, and to charge Scotsmen “that none make market with Englishmen in those parts, nor have intercourse, nor intermingle with them because of the pestilence”. Disobedience of the orders issued for the purpose of stopping all traffic and communication between the two countries was to be punished with death. The fairs held periodically in such towns as Duns and Kelso, to which people of both nationalities were wont to resort, were also prohibited.

With respect to merchants coming from infected or even suspected ports, it was ordained that they should contain themselves and their goods within shipboard, or at least proceed to some quiet place where the lieges could have no “company or melling with them ” For members of the crew to come within any “burghs, towns, or common passages ”, until they had been declared free from infection, was made a capital offence. A ship hailing from the Baltic would probably have a cargo consisting wholly or in part of flax, pitch, tar, iron, and ash-barrels. In that case, “ because the most danger appeared to be amongst the flax ”, it was to be unloaded and housed on St. Colm’s Inch, opened, handled, and cast forth to the wind every other fair day, for from six to eight weeks. The other goods were to be cleansed by “overflowing of the sea, at one or two tides The ash-barrels were to be singed with heather set on fire; whilst the ship itself was to be bored so as to let the seawater into it. And all that was to be done at the expense of the owners. The sailors and others who handled the goods were to be cleansed and set apart by themselves for a time on one of the islands in the Forth, at the discretion of the official inspectors. There is evidence that Inchkeith, Inchgarvie, and May Island were used in this way, as quarantine stations. Even after all those preventive precautions had been taken, they had to obtain a special licence from the magistrate before attempting to hold intercourse with the lieges.

If it happened that a “foul” ship entered a Scottish port, the local authorities were required to “search, seek, and apprehend the masters, skippers, and inbringers of it, and put them in sure firmance and captivity “and hold and detain them therein until order were taken and commandment given to execute justice upon them In all adjoining burghs proclamation was to be made that “none suffer or permit any of the aforesaid persons or their goods to come on land, or otherwise to reset or grant unto them meat, drink, house, or harbrie, or have any manner of communication with them, under whatever colour or pretence”, under pain of death. Should any have got away and found refuge already, they and their resetters were to be apprehended, the houses to be closed up, and “themselves to be execute jncontinent to the death ” .

When, in spite of all preventive measures, the plague broke out in a seaport, the first care was to cut off all communication. If there were a ferry service, as, for instance, between the north and south shores of the Forth, the boats were forbidden to ply, and, if necessary, actually dismantled to enforce the prohibition. In respect of inland intercourse, the panic ordinances passed by local authorities were often contradictory to each other and inconsistent with the enactments of the Government. Whilst the Privy Council endeavoured to restrict travelling by wholly isolating certain localities, or by requiring passes in the case of others, individual municipalities would not allow pipers, fiddlers, minstrels, or any other vagrants, to remain within their boundaries without the special leave of the Provost, under pain of a scourging, and would drive all ‘”poor common beggars ” forth to their own parishes, by threatening to burn them on the cheek if they were found within the burgh twenty-four hours had been made.

Notwithstanding all orders to the contrary, when the pestilence was known to have penetrated into one of the larger towns, the chief concern of the “ substantious gentlemen, burgesses, and other inhabitants ” who could command the means, was to remove themselves as far as possible from the centre of infection. In consequence of this, the poor were left “ destitute of all comfort and provision for their maintenance ”, so that many of those that died perished “rather through lack of sustentation than of the said plague”* At the great outbreak of 1585, James the Sixth, with characteristic pusillanimity, headed the exodus of the panic-stricken. He first retired to St. Andrews, but remained there only a short time, “understanding that the pestilence had reached the place of his present residence”. Before leaving the town, however, he issued one reasonable order, to the effect that “all filth and filthie beasts or carrion be removed furth of the highways, and the same cleansed and holden clean ”- Having then gone for safety to Falkland, he commanded that, within six hours, and under pain of death, all that were not properly dependent on some particular person requisite to attend on the King’s service, or that were not otherwise entitled to be in the town by special leave or occupation, should depart to their own dwelling-places. Within a month, “the suspicion of the pestilence lately entered at Falkland” caused the royal poltroon to remove to Stirling. The manner of his ignominious flight is recorded by Moysie. The King, he says, was hunting at Ruthven when “word came that there were five or six houses in Perth affected with the plague, where His Majesty’s servants were for the time. Whereupon His Majesty departed the same night, with a very small train, to Tullibardine, and next day to Stirling, leaving his whole household servants enclosed in the place pf Ruthven, with express command to them not to follow, nor remove forth of the same until they saw what became of them upon the suspicion.” In such wise did King James show the sincerity of his belief in his own philosophical remark, that“the pest always smites the sickarest, such as flies it farthest and apprehends deepliest the peril thereof”.

Such measures as were adopted by the local authorities were intended to prevent the spread of the disease rather than to relieve those already stricken by it. Under pain of death, the master of a house in which any person fell sick was to report the case immediately to the visitors or searchers. And there are numerous instances to prove that the authorities were in grim earnest in decreeing the extreme penalty. From amongst them the case of David Duly, an Edinburgh tailor, may be cited by reason of its remarkable sequel. In the official report of his offence, it is charged against him that he kept his wife sick of the contagious sickness of pestilence for two days in his house, and would not reveal the same to the officers of the town until she had died of the disease; and that, in aggravation of his transgression, at the very time that his wife was lying in extremis, he had gone to St. Giles’s Church on the Sunday, and there heard mass amongst the clean people, thus “doing what was in him to have infected all the town ”. For the flagrant contravention of the statute, “he was adjuged to be hanged on a gibbet before his own door”. In the afternoon of the day on which he was sentenced, Duty was brought out to execution; but, as the official record words it, “at the will of God, he eschapit”, the rope having broken and fallen from the gibbet. The Provost, Bailies, and Council were struck at this interposition of providence. It made them remember that the culprit was “a poor man with small bairns”; and they took pity on him to the extent of commuting his sentence to one of perpetual banishment from the city.

When the offenders were women they seem to have been dealt with in the same way as were witches, That may be inferred from a number of cases, of which that of Marion Clark is typical. For going about, “ the pestylens and seiknes beand apone her ”, she was condemned “to be drounitt in the Quarrell hollis”.

When it became known that the plague had broken out in a family, all the members of it whom it had not yet stricken were compelled to remove to a plague camp, situated in some outlying part of the burgh, where they were housed in wretched “ludges”, or huts which had been hastily run up for their accommodation, and where they might be, but seldom were, visited by their friends, accompanied by an official, after a certain hour in the morning. In some cases the landlord of the house lately inhabited by them was required to burn it, as well as their goods, without delay, and with “ absolute exoneration ” to himself for so doing. In others they were allowed to take their furniture belongings with them; and it was deemed sufficient to get the “land and rooms” from which they had been taken, cleansed “ by water and fire”. This was to be done between the hours of nine o’clock in the evening and five in the morning. The charge for it was fixed at ten shillings, which “ substantious ” citizens were expected to pay themselves. In the plague camp the clothes of stricken or suspected persons were disinfected by being boiled in a large cauldron in the open air. The due carrying out of these plague regulations was under the supervision of two bailies specially appointed for the purpose. Like the cleansers and the bearers of the dead they wore distinctive uniform, consisting of a gown of grey stuff, with a St. Andrew’s Cross both before and behind. For the removal and burial of corpses, a grim and ghastly ceremony that was performed under cover of night, there were to be provided “ twa close biers, with four feet, covered over with black and ane white cross, with ane bell to be hung upon the side of the said bier, which sal make warning to the people”.

Within a burgh where the plague had broken out a belated attempt at sanitation was made to the extent of forbidding the owners of dogs and swine to allow the animals to wander at , and of empowering anyone who encountered these “ in high streets or vennels ” to kill them. Meetings of all kinds were prohibited. Thus, in Edinburgh, Parliament was prorogued if sitting, diets of the Court of Justiciary were suspended, and the administration of the public business generally transferred to some town that had remained clean. No one might hold school under pain of banishment; and children of less than fifteen years of age were liable to be put into the stocks, and to be scourged with rods, if they made use of their enforced leisure to play “ on the gaitt or in the streets or in the kirk”.

It being made a capital offence for the destitute of any plague-stricken locality to wander about begging their living as usual, the “magistrates, barons, gentlemen, and other honest men” were called upon “of their charity” to make provision for their maintenance; and, if voluntary contributions were insufficient, recourse might be had to special taxation.

There is no reason to believe that Scotland was more grievously stricken during the second half of the sixteenth century than it had been in earlier times; but the information to be gathered from Acts of Parliament and of the Privy Council, from burgh records, private diaries, and contemporary memoirs becomes fuller and more detailed. It supplies data from which the calculation may be made that the plague years, in the aggregate, covered at least a third of the whole period. It shows that what is but a remote contingency at the present day was a constant terror then; and it brings home the fact that pestilence, with its usual sequel, dearth, must be taken into account as one of the causes to which the poverty of the country and the lamentable condition of the lower classes are to be attributed.

(LA Barbe 1919)

BELOW: Some artwork from the Dance of Death, the most celebrated series of woodcuts designed by Hans Holbein (Germany). The forty-one blocks were cut by Hans Lützelburger in the years immediately before his death in 1526, though the set was not published until 1538. Dance of Death originated as a drama in the middle of the 14th century. Following widespread epidemics such as the black plague, these plays took place in a cemetery or churchyard. Actors, dressed in pale costumes painted to resemble skeletons, personified Death and summoned a group of people from all social classes in a dancelike procession. In a period when the life span was short, the purpose of the Dance of Death was to remind the populace to prepare for the Last Judgement.

The Old Scottish Wine Trade

Braun & Hogenberg Edenburgum 1581

This has not been edited from its original print.

In such documents as we have concerning the mediaeval trade of Scotland, wine figures at an early date and appears to have constituted one of the principal articles of importation. In the Acts of the Scots Parliament there is an “Assize of Wine according to the Constitution of King David”; and from the prices indicated by it there is reason to believe that the consumption was not inconsiderable as far back as the twelfth century. In accordance with the scale fixed by this enactment, the proportionate rates between the “lagena”, which was presumably the gallon, and the “dolium ”, were to be as one penny to ten shillings, so that when the latter cost twenty shillings the former was to be sold at twopence. That wine was not a scarce commodity may be inferred from the fact that a puncheon was to be paid to the Guild of Berwick as a fine for the violation of certain rules laid down by it. And further, testimony as to the existence of a retail trade is borne by the quaint law which provided that if the wine imported into the country were to be sold in taverns, the cask was to be the King’s. And, in the instructions drawn up for the holding of the “Chalmerlan’s Ayr ”, we find evidence that the necessity for something in the nature of a licensing court had been felt and provided for. That official was to “challenge” wine taverners as to four distinct points – selling wine without its having been tasted; selling it in measures of their own that had not been duly tested; selling it without having had the price fixed by the tasters; and mixing “corrupt wine’’with wholesome wine.

In the reign of James I, the demand for wine had reached such proportions that, in order to secure an adequate supply, an Act was passed, in 1431, by which it was required that half the price of the salmon exported should be paid in Gascon wine. That there was at this time a trade in Rhine wine also, is implied in the enactment of 1436, that “na man of Scotlande by at Flemyngs of the Dam, in Scotlande, any kynde of wyne under the payne of eschet thereof”. The reason for this prohibition was that shipment at any port but Campvere was an infringement of the privilege which it enjoyed as the Staple, but which was not always respected by Sluys and “the Dam”, from which German wines could be conveniently smuggled out and shipped to Scotland.

The special legislation called for by the wines of Bordeaux and the Charente district indicates both the wider popularity which they enjoyed and the greater importance which they consequently acquired as an article of commerce. But, if they were more within the reach of the general public, there were other growths that found favour with those whose means allowed them to indulge in choicer brands. Evidence of this is to be found, not in the Acts of Parliament or of the Privy Council, but in the Exchequer Rolls and Household Books that have come down to us. From these we learn that after Mary of Gueldres had become Queen of Scotland she continued to favour the Burgundian wines to which she had been accustomed; and that Beaune was her favourite vintage. There are also entries referring to the purchase of Malmsey, which the traders of Genoa, Venice, and Pisa brought from Candia and Cyprus, and with which they supplied the chief ports of Western Europe; of Muscadel, the name given to several kinds of sweet and strong Italian wines; of Bastard, a Corsican wine that was taken with honey; and of Spanish wines, especially those of Alicant.

In 1482, the Legislature turned its attention to the fraudulent methods by which unscrupulous merchants sought to increase their gains. It was ordained that none of the lieges should bring “corrupt or mixed wine into the realm”. If such should happen to be sent, no man was either to sell it or tap it after it had been condemned by the bailies and tasters. It was to be returned to the shipper. No less a penalty than that of death was attached to the infringement of this early law against adulteration. And the same punishment was to be inflicted on anyone who should be discovered mixing wine after importation.

That the retail trade continued to increase during the next quarter of a century seems to be indicated by the Act of 1503, by which persons not dwelling in burghs were forbidden to sell wines. Thirty two years later, under JamesV, a special measure was adopted, from which it is to be gathered that the importation of wine into Scotland did not yet meet the requirements of the population and still needed encouragement. Prior to that it had been forbidden to send staple goods out of the country between St. Simon and Jude’s Day and Candlemas, that is, between the 28th of October and the 2nd of February. This restriction, a kind of close time which the scant resources of the country had made necessary, was removed to the extent that authorization was given “ to send any kind of merchandise forth of the realm in the time foresaid in any ships that brought in salt or wine”.

In 1540, under the same King, a noteworthy Act was passed by Parliament. In terms of one of its clauses, provosts and bailies, besides being appointed to fix the retail prices of wine, were constituted official merchants of it in wholesale quantities, and no one, whether freeman or unfreeman, was to buy from any but them unless it were directly from the importer. By another clause it was further ordained that no man was to buy wine until the King, through his officers, had bought up as much of it as it pleased him to take. And this privilege of pre-emption was to be shared by “ all noblemen of the realm, such as prelates, barons, and other gentlemen ”. During the next sixty years this pre-emptive provision called forth numerous enactments on the part of the Privy Council. Some of them, such as those of 1564 and 1565, were merely a repetition of it, but were couched in terms that implied considerable dissatisfaction on the part of the lesser people, as well as general laxity on the part of the municipal authorities in the enforcement of an unpopular law. But, in spite of all enactments, the royal household was so “empty and desolate of wines”, in 1566, that the Lords singled out two Edinburgh merchants, Richard Anderson and Robert Johnstone, and commanded them to deliver respectively, four tuns and seven and a half tuns to the Queen’s butler. For these they were to receive “good and thankful payment”, at the rate of “ fiftie pundis, money of this realm ”, for each tun.

In 1569, there occurred an incident which showed how jealously the burghs guarded the monopoly conferred upon them by the Act of 1503. As a free burgh of Regality, the Abbey of Holyroodhouse claimed and exercised the privilege of “ selling of wine for serving of the lieges of the realm ”. The right of the Abbey to put itself on a footing of equality with Edinburgh does not appear to have been admitted by the latter, for there was at the time, “process depending before the Lords of our Sovereign’s Session thereanent ”. But the law’s delay did not suit the magistrates of the city; and three of the bailies resolved to take the matter into their own hands. Accompanied by a number of the community of their burgh, they proceeded to the Canongate, which, together with Leith and the Barony of Broughton, constituted the Regality of Holyrood, and there, in spite of remonstrances and protests, broke and cast down the “ senyeis ” of wine. This unjustifiable aggression on the overbearing neighbours, was brought under the notice of the Regent and the Privy Council by Adam, Bishoo of Orkney, who was then Commendator of the Abbey. The course adopted by the Council suggests a desire on its part to placate the masterful municipality of the capital rather than to do justice to the lesser Regality and to its claim to be independent of “any jurisdiction inferior under the Prince”. It is recorded that my Lord Regent’s Grace and Lords of Secret Council ordained and commanded both the said parties “to desist and cease from all attempting of anything against others by violence or way of deed (assault) in time coming ”, and “ to pursue all their actions, causes, and controversies by order of law and justice”.

In 1576, the privilege of pre-emption was restricted to the King and the Regent; and, in the following year, even their right was limited to the purchase of one tun out of every ten imported. But even this concession did not bring about satisfactory results, for, though the importers might be willing to supply their royal customer, they objected to his dilatoriness in settling their accounts. Some of them went so far as to refuse to replenish his cellars, even though that was declared to be “ane matter sa necessar as that it could not be differrit or myslippinit ”, unless it were for ready money, or, if credit were to be given, at a higher rate, and “ with assurance for payment thereof”. This led to the passing of a new law which authorized the royal “simleir”, or butler, not only to visit, taste, and uptake wines to the furnishing of His Majesty’s house, upon reasonable prices, but also to break open “doors of lockfast houses and ‘lumes’ in whatsomever burghs and to search all ships in whatsomever havens and harbours, and use our Sovereign Lord’s keys to that effect”. Besides being resented by the importers and wine dealers, this arbitrary and oppressive ordinance gave offence to the town councils of the chief seaport towns, and the Privy Council had to threaten pains and penalties before they yielded an unwilling compliance. In 1586, another equally high-handed measure was passed. It was ordered that a macer or other officer of arms should arrest all wines imported, belonging to whatsoever person, the same to remain unsold in whole or in part till so much thereof was “waillit, taistit, tnarkeit, and intromettit with ” by the King’s “simleir”, as should be thought necessary for the use of the royal household, “ upoun ressonabell pryceis to be payit thairfore” As to the manner in which James fulfilled his promises of settlement, the Acts of the Privy Council also supply information. Under date of 1592, they contain an entry to the effect that Adam Anderson, burgess of Perth, should stand caution for the Provost and Bailies of the city, that they should pay to the Provost and Bailies of Edinburgh, the sum of three hundred and forty pounds, as their part of the contrlbution imposed upon the Burghs collectively for the thirty tuns of wine advanced by the said Magistrates of Edinburgh for furnishing the King’s house in January, 1589.

If it was found difficult to supply the wants of the Sovereign, the lieges themselves were naturally even worse off than he. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards, there were published at comparatively frequent intervals a number of enactments which all had for their main object the “suppressing of dearth of wines”. With this in view, on February 1, 1551, Parliament fixed the prices of Bordeaux and Rochelle wines, They were not to exceed fifteen pounds to twenty pounds per tun, or eightpence to tenpence per pint, for the former; and twelve to sixteen pounds per tun, or sixpence to eightpence per pint, for the latter. The Act likewise forbade the mixing of old and new wine, as well as the addition of water. Nor might the newly-imported wine he hoarded or concealed. The law required it to be put up in taverns and vaults and sold at the prices fixed by the authorities. Perth was permitted to raise these by twopence per quart.

In spite of all this legislation, and in spite, too, of the “ daily ” importation at both the east and the west seas, it was found that, owing to the action of forestalled, prices continued to increase and that the dearth remained. To remedy this abuse the Privy Council, in 1552, caused proclamation to be made in all burghs that no wines arriving in the havens or ports of the east and northland seas should be bought at any dearer price than seventeen pounds the tun of Bordeaux wine and thirteen pounds the tun of Rochelle wine; or should be sold at any higher rate than eightpence the pint of Bordeaux and sixpence the pint of Rochelle wine. In the west sea ports the highest price at which Bordeaux wine might be bought was two pounds less per tun, but no reduction was made in respect of Rochelle wine. Confiscation not only of all the wine which had been the subject of an illegal bargain, but of all their movable goods also, was the penalty to be inflicted on both buyers and sellers who disregarded the Act.

An explanation of the differential tariff, by which most of the enactments give the west country consumers so marked an advantage over those on the east coast, is suggested by the editor of the eleventh volume of the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer. “Perhaps”, he says, “one reason why the price of wine was thus regulated, was that English pirates were in the habit of frequenting the West Coast and selling wine there at an absurdly small figure. Randolph, the English Ambassador, writes to Cecil in October, 1564, that an English pirate called White was selling wine ‘ better cheape ’ than his correspondent could drink London beer in his own house. was probably with the view of preventing such practices that the proclamation was now made, so as to give the public no inducement to buy from the pirate rather than from the ordinary trader.” But, apart from any such cause, the shorter voyage from either the Gironde or the Charente ports to the west coast of Scotland, as compared with that to the harbours on the Forth, seems sufficient to account for the difference in prices and to justify it.

An ordinance published by the Privy Council in 1562 indicates an important modification in the Lords’ views concerning the wine trade. The first cause of it was their “understanding” that the fine coined money of the realm in both gold and silver was being carried out of the country by traders generally, but more especially by those who brought home wine from Bordeaux, the Charente district, and other parts beyond the seas; and that in consequence of this exportation good money was growing scant, and the price of all kinds of victuals daily increasing by reason of this scarcity; They argued that, if the trade were restricted wines would fall in price, and the money obtained for them be bestowed upon wares within the realm, with the desirable result that the good money would remain amongst the lieges, and the cost of all kinds of commodities decrease daily. To further these objects they again fixed a tariff of charges. The fact of their bringing them down to very nearly what they had been in 1552 shows that there must have been a very considerable rise during the decade to justify complaints and to call for official interference. A drastic remedy for the dearth of money was provided by a further clause of the same Act. It obliged foreign importers of wine to spend what they had obtained for it on other merchandise within the realm, and it forbade their carrying away “any kind of money, gold or silver, coined or uncoined ”, under pain of confiscation. In order to secure the obviously difficult execution of this new law, searchers were appointed and instructed to “search diligently at every port and haven within the kingdom.

By1566 there had been an advance to thirty-six and thirty-two pounds per tun, and to sixteenpence and fourteenpence per pint, of Bordeaux and Charente wines respectively. In subsequent years, however, the rise was far more considerable as well as less gradual. Thus, in 1578 Bordeaux wine cost fifty pounds per tun and two shillings per pint;but the retail price had leapt to three shillings and fourpence in 1585, to double that amount ten years later, and to eight shillings per pint in 1598. In the last year of the century, however, there was a slight diminution, for at that date Sir John Carmichael obtained a commission from His Majesty against such inhabitants of the Burgh of Dumfries as sold wine at higher prices than five shillings a pint. But when almost immediately after this a tax of twenty-one pounds per tun was imposed “ for the help and supply of His Highness’s honourable necessities”, an increase of twelve pence per pint was sanctioned. In consequence of this the price of wine at the beginning of the seventeenth century was almost exactly twelve times as much as it had been fifty years earlier.

(LA Barbe 1919)

The Old Scottish Fisheries

Family baiting lines, Buckhaven. Another copy is described as Robinson family.

This has not been edited from its original print.

The writers to whom we owe the earliest descriptions of Scotland, are all in agreement as to the abundance of fish to be found both in the inland waters and in those by which the coasts were washed. “This region”, wrote John of Fordun, in the second half of the 14th century, “is manifold in its wealth of fish in sea, river, and lake.” And fifty years later, the statement was briefly, but emphatically confirmed by Andrew Wyntoun: “Off fysche there is habowndance”. From John Major s History of Greater Britain, published in 1521, we get both further corroboration and fuller details, together with an explanation of the phenomenon. It is based on the crude scientific theories of the day concerning the greater depth of the northern seas, as proved by the ocean’s flowing “from the north south-wards ”, and as accounted for by “ the air that has been turned into water”.

After enumerating the chief rivers of Scotland the Forth, the Tay, the Spey, the Don, and the Dee – Major adds that they all abound in salmon, trout, and pike. He also supplies some interesting information as to the price of salmon and herring: “In most parts of Scotland ”, he says, “ you may buy a large fresh salmon for two duodenae, in other parts, however, for a sou; and for a laird you may carry away a hundred fresh herring.” Major also states that “near the sea is great plenty of oysters, as well as crabs and lobsters”. And he describes the shell-fish as being “of marvellous size”.

Hector Boece fully bears out all that his contemporary has written as to the great abundance of fish in Scottish waters. According to him, the harvest of the sea was so great that it would have sufficed to sustain the whole population, if the land had refused them its fruits. And as evidence that his statement is not exaggerated, he adduces the fact that fishing fleets from France, Flanders, Zeeland, Holland, and many parts of Germany annually visited the Northern Seas, about the time of Lent, that is, in the spring, and returned with such quantities of fish as not only sustained themselves, but also enabled them to provide for the wants of “all other countries ”, even as far as the Mediterranean.

To mention the many localities especially referred to bv Boece as being “ richt plentuus and full of fische ”, practically amounts to an enumeration of the chief salt and freshwater lochs, and of the more important rivers in Scotland. In Galloway, Loch Ryan and Loch Luce are “both full of oysters, herring, conger eels, mussels, and cockles, with many other fish In Lochtyne there is a “greater plenty of herring than in any seas of Albion”. In Lochaber there are lochs and rivers “ full of salmon and other fish, swimming; so plenteously that the same are taken without any skill ” whilst in the Don and the Dee there is “ mair fouth of salmond ” than in any of the other rivers of Britain. Cockles, oysters, mussels, seals and porpoises, dolphins and whales, with great plenty of whitefish, entitle the Forth to a foremost place amongst the most productive of Scottish waters.

Two circumstances in particular impress the old chronicler as no less providential than they are marvellous. One of them is, that of all kind of fish there is “sa gret plente throw all partis of our seis, that, howbeit infinit noumer of thaim were tane away on the ta day, na thing thairof sal be mist on the morow”.

The other is, that “ay the mair derth and penurie of vittallis is in Scotland, the fische swoumis with the mair abundance and plente”. Though lack of details can hardly be laid to his charge, Boece wishes it to be understood that his account of the country’s wealth is not exhaustive, and he is ready with a good reason for not attempting to make it so. “To schaw every kind of fische ”, he says, “ it wer bot ane faschious and vane lauboure; for the samin ar knawin to al cuntreis.” And that this is no mere boast may be gathered from Pedro de Ayala, the ambassador of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain at the Court of James IV. In the account which he gives of Scotland, he states that it was commonly known as “piscinata Scotia”.

Scattered through the old writers’ notices of the Scottish fisheries, there are a number of marvellous stories which would do credit to Mandeville himself, and which are not without interest, as samples of some of the popular delusions of the day. To account for the disappearance from the mouth of the Tay of the herring that had formerly abounded there, Boece records the generally accepted “ truth”, that when any avaricious and unhappy men fight for the fish that God sends, of His infinite goodness for the sustentatioun of the people, and pollute the sea with their blood, for many years after, no fish swim in that place. Nor is this the only instance of credulity with regard to a phenomenon that hardly ranks as a prodigy with the more sceptical generation of the present day. Bishop Leslie accounts in the same manner for the disappearance of herring from Lochbroom.

Far more wonderful than what may be looked upon as the superstitious explanation of an actual fact, is the account that Boece gives of a “ great fish” to be found about the Orkneys. It is described as larger than any house. The “marvellous and incredible ” thing about it, however, was not so much its size as its power of sleep. “ This fish ”, records the chronicler, “ when she begins to sleep, fastens her teeth fast on a crag above the water. As soon as the mariners find her asleep they come with a strong cable in a boat; and after they have bored a great hole through her tail, they fasten her by the same. As soon as this fish is awakened she tries to leap with great force into the sea, and when she finds herself fast, she writhes herself out of her own skin and dies. Of the fat that she has, oil is in great quantity; and of her skin, because it endures long, strong cables are made.” Any prototype that this marvellous monster may be said to have had, was probably the whale. It is less easy to identify the “uncouth and wonderful fish ” that were said to haunt the Forth. They are described as having cowls hanging over their heads like monks; and it is added that their appearance always betokened mortality of men and beasts.

In his account of the horse-mussel, with which the Dee and the Don abounded, Boece embodies the popular belief as to the origin of the pearl. Early in the morning, he says, when the air is clear and temperate, these mussels open their mouths a little above the water, and most greedily swallow the dew of heaven. In proportion to the measure and quantity of the dew that they swallow, they conceive and breed the pearl. These mussels are so “ doyn gleg ”, that is, so excessively quick, of touch and hearing that, though the sound be never so slight that is made on the bank beside them, or the stone never so small that is cast into the water, they “douk haistelie ”, and at once go to the bottom, knowing well in what estimation and price the fruit of their womb is held by all people.

Though considerable allowance must be made for Boece’s credulity when he thus ventures into the realm of natural history, his accuracy is less questionable when, with the actual experience that his residence in Aberdeen may be assumed to have given him, he describes the way in which these precious horse – mussels were gathered. “ First, four or five persons pass into the river together and stand in manner of a round circle in the water, to their shoulders. Each one of them has a staff in his hand that he may not slide; and then they look and search through the clear and mpid water until they see the mussels; and because they may not take them up with their hands, they ‘cleek ’ them up with their toes, and sling them to the nearest bank”.

In the earliest ages, the inhabitants of Scotland do not appear to have availed themselves of the abundance of fish that both sea and river offered them. During the Celtic period, when adoration was paid to the waters, fish was considered a forbidden food. Even after the introduction of Christianity, there were, for a time, ascetics who practised and enjoined abstinence from fish, which they considered dangerous to purity of soul. Before long, however, this prejudice ceased to be entertained, and fish became the chief article of diet on the many fast-days imposed by the Church on the faithful. But, apart from the demand created by the ecclesiastical ordinances, there was the necessity that resulted from the scantiness of fodder during the winter months, when it was found practically impossible to keep cattle in condition that suited them to be slaughtered for food.

The household book of James V supplies interesting information as to the extent to which fish was used in the early decades of the 16th century- In the list of the sea-fish, the herring- fresh, salt, and red—figures conspicuously. As white fish there are both fresh and dried “ mulones ”, a term that has been translated as “cod”, though it is impossible to overlook its suggestive resemblance to “ mullet In addition to these, there are codlings, pollacks, whiting, ling, and “speldings”, which last may possibly be sprats. Frequent mention is also made of sand eels, blennies or “greenbanes,” gurnards, lump fish or “cock-paddles”, anglers or “sea-devils”, sea-cat, smelt, conger-eels, and lampreys. There appears to have been a liberal supply of flatfish, including turbot, halibut, and flounders. The sole is only occasionally referred to, as is also the “rigadia”, which may possibly be the skate or ray-fish.

Numerous entries indicate the extensive use of salmon—salted and kippered as well as fresh and also of trout, eels, perch, and pike. The occurrence of the last of these amongst the fresh water fish purchased for the royal household, in 1525, is noteworthy ’as disposing of ‘ the generally received opinion that this fish was introduced in the reign of Henry VI11, in 1537 ”, and as supporting its claim to be considered a native fish.

If the term “ polupi ” has been correctly interpreted as meaning “cuttle-fish ”, its repeated appearance would indicate a partiality for what must now seem a strange, if not repulsive article of food. It seems to us, however, far more probable that the name is but another form of Boece’s polypod ”, and, like it, is applied to the lobster. To judge from the frequency of the entries recording the purchase of oysters, these appear to have been considered as great a delicacy four hundred years ago as they are at the present day. According to the same evidence, there must have been a considerable consumption of mussels, cockles, whelks, razor-fish, scallops, periwinkles, and limpets,and also of crabs and shrimps. And, finally, that dishes wholly unknown, at the present-day, on the tables of either rich or poor, frequently figured on that of royalty itself, may be inferred from the purchase of porpoises and seals for the larder.

Various authorities, from treatises on the art of war to returns of commissariat expenses, testify to the extraordinary quantity of fish that was used for victualling troops and provisioning castles. We know that amongst the supplies delivered to the garrisons that Edward I quartered in the south of Scotland during the years 1299 and 1300, there were large stores of herring, which were bought by the last of 10,000 of stockfish, and of ling. In order to meet his own requirements, during this expedition, the same monarch was accompanied by some of the fishers attached to his household; and in his “Wardrobe Account” there is an entry for “four nets which were purchased for fishing- in the rivers and lakes of Scotland for the King’s use ”.

The amount of fish required in the large establishments of the nobility may be estimated from the fact that, in one year, the Breadalbane family laid in 420 salmon, 15,000 herring, and 30 dozen of “hard fish”. In addition to this the numerous religious houses created a constant demand for the same commodity; and their chartuaries abound in records of the provision that was made to meet it. We learn from them that David I gave the monks of the Isle of May exclusive fishery rights around their own shores; that he conferred on the community of Holy rood the tithe of his own share of the larger fish caught along the southern shore of the Forth, from the Avon to Cockburnspath; and that he made over to the monastery of Dunfermline every seventh one of the seals caught at Kinghorn, after his own tithe had been set aside. To his successor, Malcolm IV, the same house owed the remarkable grant of “the heads of porpoises caught in the Forth, except the tongues”; and that of Kelso of “the half of the fat of the royal fishes which might come into the Forth on either shore”.

In some cases, the privileges conferred by the King did not involve the absolute surrender of his own rights. For instance, Alexander I expressly reserved them in the charter that entitled the monks of Scone to fish in the Tay, near which their house was situated. There were also restrictions as to space, for the measurement of which the stretch of water that could be fished by one net and one cobble was taken as the unit, and was itself called a “net”. That explains what the chartularies mean when they record that David I gave two “nets” in the Tweed to the monks of Holy rood; that Malcolm IV granted two “nets ” in the Tay and one ‘‘net in the Forth to those of Scone; and one in the Findhorn to those of Kinloss; and that King William allowed those of Arbroath a “net” in the North Esk and another “in the Tay which was called the Stocke”.

It may be presumed that where “nets” were granted, the fishing was by means of the seine. Another contrivance consisted of the “ yair which is described as “ an enclosure stretching into a tideway, for the purpose of detaining the fish when the tide ebbs The material of which it was constructed is indicated in the permit which the Earl of Lennox gave to the monks of Paisley, in 1273, authorizing them to take wood from his forests and stone from his grounds for the repair of their fishing yairs on the Leven. The grant of yairs, like that of nets, occurs frequently in mediaeval charters. Their extent was regulated by a statute of Alexander II which, by reason of its quaintness, has become famous. It was to the effect that the mid-stream should be left sufficiently wide for a well-fed swine of three years to be able to turn round in it without touching the yair with either snout or tail.

Fishing by means of stell-nets, along the shelving seashore and near the mouths of rivers, appears to have been practised at a very early date. What he calls “ane uncouth maner of fisching ” is described by Boece, and is stated by him to have been, in his day, peculiar to Moray. The people, he says, made a long basket, narrow-necked and wide-mouthed, with many stakes inside. Into this the fish threw themselves and could not get forth again; and as soon as the sea ebbed they were taken dry in the creels. If, as has been thought, this refers to “the contrivance of cruives and yairs ”, Boece could scarcely have been so unfamiliar with it as to call it uncouth, and to assign it to one special district. As regards rod-fishing, what, so far as we know, is the earliest mention of it, occurs in 1632, when the father of Duncan Campbell in Creitgarrow became caution for his son, that he should not “ put out a wand on the water of Tay”.

The primitive way in which shell-fish were caught, is described by John Major. “In Lent, and in Summer,” he says, “at the winter and the summer solstice, people go in early morning from my own Gleghornie and the neighbouring parts to the shore, drag out the polypods and crabs with hooks, and return at noon with well-filled sacks. At these seasons the tide is at its lowest, and the polypods and crabs take shelter under the rocks by the sea. A hook is fastened to the end of a stick, and when the fish becomes aware of the wood or iron, it catches the same with one of its joints, thus connecting itself with the stick, which the fisherman then at once draws up”.

In spite of Boece’s statement as to the number of continental fishing fleets that annually visited the North Sea, there is evidence to prove that foreigners, far from being welcome or even tolerated in Scottish waters, ran the risk of being treated like pirates. It may not be true that James V, having dispatched one of his ships of war to capture some Dutch fishermen who had ventured to fish within 28 miles of the mouth of the Forth, put the offenders to death, and sent a barrelful of their heads to Holland. But, the story was told by the Town-Clerk of Edinburgh to Secretary Coke, in 1630; and it illustrates the popular feeling of the time as regards fishery rights.

(LA Barbe, 1919)

A Comparative View of the Lengths of the Principal Rivers of Scotland

A comparative view of the lengths of the principal rivers of Scotland.
A comparative view of the lengths of the principal rivers of Scotland.

A comparative view of the lengths of the principal rivers of Scotland with a comparative view of the height of the falls of Foyers and Corba Linn.

Drawn by W.H. Lizars. Published by John Thomson of Edinburgh in 1831.



Historical Scotland Map by L.G. Bullock


Printed and published by John Bartholomew & Son Ltd. in Edinburgh, Scotland, estimated date 1962.

The map is decorated with the coat of arms of the main cities and towns, as well as principal Scottish family and clan chiefs. Places and events in Scotland’s history are illustrated on this map. Shows sites of cathedrals, abbeys, castles and battles.

Dundee Gingerbread


This is a traditional Scottish recipe and you will need to decide how you’d like to adjust it to modern ingredients and methods.

You will need:

– 3 cup fulls of flour
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 2 oz. butter
– 3 tablespoonfuls syrup
– 1 tablespoonful dried egg
– 1 teaspoonful of ground ginger
– 1 teacupful of milk
– 4 tablespoonsful of treacle
– 1 teaspoonful of baking soda
– 6 oz. fruit (if desired)


1. Put the milk, syrup, treacle, and margarine into a pan and dissolve slowly.

2. Sieve the flour and spices into a basin.

3. Add the liquid from the pan, the egg mixture, and beat for a minute before adding the fruit.

4. Turn into a paper-ined and greased tin and bake in a rather slow oven for about 2 hours. If fruit is added, have a moderate oven.

Mrs. Bruce’s Lasagna


This recipe is from Mrs. Bruce of Aberdeen.


– 1 pound of hamburger meat (mince)
– 1 pack of streaky bacon
– 2 to 4 cubes of chicken stock (adjust to taste)
– 2 medium to large carrots sticks, shredded
– 1 large onion, diced up
– 1 large bell pepper, diced up
– 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
– 1 tube of tomato paste (adjust to taste)

1. Cook the bacon until it is crisp and set it aside.
2. Cook hamburger (mince) and break it down while you cook it so it looks like taco meat
3. Re-add the bacon, crumbled or finely chopped
4. Now add in the chicken stock cubes (crumbled), carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Mix it very well. Cook it down until the onions are soft and everything starts to blend together good. Stir it often, it will take about 20 minutes. Then, as the last step, add the tomato paste and mix it quickly, then remove the pan from the heat and set the mixture aside.

Cheese sauce:

– 1 American stick of butter (4 ounces or half cup)
– 12 oz strong cheddar cheese, grated or shredded
– 4 tablespoons of flour
– 2 cups of whole milk (if possible) or use any milk you have

1. Put everything into a saucepan and bring to a slow, gentle boil, stirring very often. It will thicken up on its own, then immediately remove from heat.

Finally, you need lasagna sheets.
Use sheets you’ve already boiled or the kind you don’t need to boil first (nice to have).

Now put it all together in layers in a large baking dish.
– A layer of meat, a layer of lasagna noodles, a layer of sauce. This makes 2 layers.
– Bake for 30 minutes at 350 (USA) or 180 (UK).

Farquhar MacNeill


Once upon a time there was a young man named Farquhar MacNeill. He had just gone to a new situation, and the very first night after he went to it his mistress asked him if he would go over the hill to the house of a neighbour and borrow a sieve, for her own was all in holes, and she wanted to sift some meal.

Farquhar agreed to do so, for he was a willing lad, and he set out at once upon his errand, after the farmer’s wife had pointed out to him the path that he was to follow, and told him that he would have no difficulty in finding the house, even though it was strange to him, for he would be sure to see the light in the window.

He had not gone very far, however, before he saw what he took to be the light from a cottage window on his left hand, some distance from the path, and, forgetting his Mistress’s instructions that he was to follow the path right over the hill, he left it, and walked towards the light.

It seemed to him that he had almost reached it when his foot tripped, and he fell down, down, down, into a Fairy Parlour, far under the ground.

It was full of Fairies, who were engaged in different occupations.

Close by the door, or rather the hole down which he had so unceremoniously tumbled, two little elderly women, in black aprons and white mutches, were busily engaged in grinding corn between two flat millstones. Other two Fairies, younger women, in blue print gowns and white kerchiefs, were gathering up the freshly ground meal, and baking it into bannocks, which they were toasting on a girdle over a peat fire, which was burning slowly in a corner.


In the centre of the large apartment a great troop of Fairies, Elves, and Sprites were dancing reels as hard as they could to the music of a tiny set of bagpipes which were being played by a brown-faced Gnome, who sat on a ledge of rock far above their heads.

They all stopped their various employments when Farquhar came suddenly down in their midst, and looked at him in alarm; but when they saw that he was not hurt, they bowed gravely and bade him be seated. Then they went on with their work and with their play as if nothing had happened.

But Farquhar, being very fond of dancing, and being in no wise anxious to be seated, thought that he would like to have a reel first, so he asked the Fairies if he might join them. And they, although they looked surprised at his request, allowed him to do so, and in a few minutes the young man was dancing away as gaily as any of them.

And as he danced a strange change came over him. He forgot his errand, he forgot his home, he forgot everything that had ever happened to him, he only knew that he wanted to remain with the Fairies all the rest of his life.

And he did remain with them—for a magic spell had been cast over him, and he became like one of themselves, and could come and go at nights without being seen, and could sip the dew from the grass and honey from the flowers as daintily and noiselessly as if he had been a Fairy born.

Time passed by, and one night he and a band of merry companions set out for a long journey through the air. They started early, for they intended to pay a visit to the Man in the Moon and be back again before cock-crow.

All would have gone well if Farquhar had only looked where he was going, but he did not, being deeply engaged in making love to a young Fairy Maiden by his side, so he never saw a cottage that was standing right in his way, till he struck against the chimney and stuck fast in the thatch.

His companions sped merrily on, not noticing what had befallen him, and he was left to disentangle himself as best he could.

As he was doing so he chanced to glance down the wide chimney, and in the cottage kitchen he saw a comely young woman dandling a rosy-cheeked baby.

Now, when Farquhar had been in his mortal state, he had been very fond of children, and a word of blessing rose to his lips.

“God shield thee,” he said, as he looked at the mother and child, little guessing what the result of his words would be.

For scarce had the Holy Name crossed his lips than the spell which had held him so long was broken, and he became as he had been before.

Instantly his thoughts flew to his friends at home, and to the new Mistress whom he had left waiting for her sieve; for he felt sure that some weeks must have elapsed since he set out to fetch it. So he made haste to go to the farm.

When he arrived in the neighbourhood everything seemed strange. There were woods where no woods used to be, and walls where no walls used to be. To his amazement, he could not find his way to the farm, and, worst of all, in the place where he expected to find his father’s house he found nothing but a crop of rank green nettles.

In great distress he looked about for someone to tell him what it all meant, and at last he found an old man thatching the roof of a cottage.

This old man was so thin and grey that at first Farquhar took him for a patch of mist, but as he went nearer he saw that he was a human being, and, going close up to the wall and shouting with all his might, for he felt sure that such an ancient man would be deaf, he asked him if he could tell him where his friends had gone to, and what had happened to his father’s dwelling.

The old man listened, then he shook his head. “I never heard of him,” he answered slowly; “but perhaps my father might be able to tell you.”

“Your father!” said Farquhar, in great surprise. “Is it possible that your father is alive?”

“Aye he is,” answered the old man, with a little laugh. “If you go into the house you’ll find him sitting in the arm-chair by the fire.”

Farquhar did as he was bid, and on entering the cottage found another old man, who was so thin and withered and bent that he looked as if he must at least be a hundred years old. He was feebly twisting ropes to bind the thatch on the roof.

“Can ye tell me aught of my friends, or where my father’s cottage is?” asked Farquhar again, hardly expecting that this second old man would be able to answer him.

“I cannot,” mumbled this ancient person; “but perhaps my father can tell you.”

“Your father!” exclaimed Farquhar, more astonished than ever. “But surely he must be dead long ago.”

The old man shook his head with a weird grimace.

“Look there,” he said, and pointed with a twisted finger, to a leathern purse, or sporran, which was hanging to one of the posts of a wooden bedstead in the corner.

Farquhar approached it, and was almost frightened out of his wits by seeing a tiny shrivelled face crowned by a red pirnie, looking over the edge of the sporran.

“Tak’ him out; he’ll no touch ye,” chuckled the old man by the fire.

So Farquhar took the little creature out carefully between his finger and thumb, and set him on the palm of his left hand. He was so shrivelled with age that he looked just like a mummy.

“Dost know anything of my friends, or where my father’s cottage is gone to?” asked Farquhar for the third time, hardly expecting to get an answer.

“They were all dead long before I was born,” piped out the tiny figure. “I never saw any of them, but I have heard my father speak of them.”

“Then I must be older than you!” cried Farquhar, in great dismay. And he got such a shock at the thought that his bones suddenly dissolved into dust, and he fell, a heap of grey ashes, on the floor.

Katherine Crackernuts


There was once a King whose wife died, leaving him with an only daughter, whom he dearly loved. The little Princess’s name was Velvet-Cheek, and she was so good, and bonnie, and kind-hearted that all her father’s subjects loved her. But as the King was generally engaged in transacting the business of the State, the poor little maiden had rather a lonely life, and often wished that she had a sister with whom she could play, and who would be a companion to her.

The King, hearing this, made up his mind to marry a middle-aged Countess, whom he had met at a neighbouring Court, who had one daughter, named Katherine, who was just a little younger than the Princess Velvet-Cheek, and who, he thought, would make a nice play-fellow for her.

He did so, and in one way the arrangement turned out very well, for the two girls loved one another dearly, and had everything in common, just as if they had really been sisters.

But in another way it turned out very badly, for the new Queen was a cruel and ambitious woman, and she wanted her own daughter to do as she had done, and make a grand marriage, and perhaps even become a Queen. And when she saw that Princess Velvet-Cheek was growing into a very beautiful young woman—more beautiful by far than her own daughter—she began to hate her, and to wish that in some way she would lose her good looks.

“For,” thought she, “what suitor will heed my daughter as long as her step-sister is by her side?”

Now, among the servants and retainers at her husband’s Castle there was an old Hen-wife, who, men said, was in league with the Evil Spirits of the air, and who was skilled in the knowledge of charms, and philtres, and love potions.

“Perhaps she could help me to do what I seek to do,” said the wicked Queen; and one night, when it was growing dusk, she wrapped a cloak round her, and set out to this old Hen-wife’s cottage.

“Send the lassie to me to-morrow morning ere she hath broken her fast,” replied the old Dame when she heard what her visitor had to say. “I will find out a way to mar her beauty.” And the wicked Queen went home content.

Next morning she went to the Princess’s room while she was dressing, and told her to go out before breakfast and get the eggs that the Hen-wife had gathered. “And see,” added she, “that thou dost not eat anything ere thou goest, for there is nothing that maketh the roses bloom on a young maiden’s cheeks like going out fasting in the fresh morning air.”

Princess Velvet-Cheek promised to do as she was bid, and go and fetch the eggs; but as she was not fond of going out of doors before she had had something to eat, and as, moreover, she suspected that her step-mother had some hidden reason for giving her such an unusual order, and she did not trust her step-mother’s hidden reasons, she slipped into the pantry as she went downstairs and helped herself to a large slice of cake. Then, after she had eaten it, she went straight to the Hen-wife’s cottage and asked for the eggs.

“Lift the lid of that pot there, your Highness, and you will see them,” said the old woman, pointing to the big pot standing in the corner in which she boiled her hens’ meat.

The Princess did so, and found a heap of eggs lying inside, which she lifted into her basket, while the old woman watched her with a curious smile.

“Go home to your Lady Mother, Hinny,” she said at last, “and tell her from me to keep the press door better snibbit.”

The Princess went home, and gave this extraordinary message to her step-mother, wondering to herself the while what it meant.

But if she did not understand the Hen-wife’s words, the Queen understood them only too well. For from them she gathered that the Princess had in some way prevented the old Witch’s spell doing what she intended it to do.

So next morning, when she sent her step-daughter once more on the same errand, she accompanied her to the door of the Castle herself, so that the poor girl had no chance of paying a visit to the pantry. But as she went along the road that led to the cottage, she felt so hungry that, when she passed a party of country-folk picking peas by the roadside, she asked them to give her a handful.

They did so, and she ate the peas; and so it came about that the same thing happened that had happened yesterday.

The Hen-wife sent her to look for the eggs; but she could work no spell upon her, because she had broken her fast. So the old woman bade her go home again and give the same message to the Queen.

The Queen was very angry when she heard it, for she felt that she was being outwitted by this slip of a girl, and she determined that, although she was not fond of getting up early, she would accompany her next day herself, and make sure that she had nothing to eat as she went.

So next morning she walked with the Princess to the Hen-wife’s cottage, and, as had happened twice before, the old woman sent the Royal maiden to lift the lid off the pot in the corner in order to get the eggs.

And the moment that the Princess did so off jumped her own pretty head, and on jumped that of a sheep.

Then the wicked Queen thanked the cruel old Witch for the service that she had rendered to her, and went home quite delighted with the success of her scheme; while the poor Princess picked up her own head and put it into her basket along with the eggs, and went home crying, keeping behind the hedge all the way, for she felt so ashamed of her sheep’s head that she was afraid that anyone saw her.

Now, as I told you, the Princess’s step-sister Katherine loved her dearly, and when she saw what a cruel deed had been wrought on her she was so angry that she declared that she would not remain another hour in the Castle. “For,” said she, “if my Lady Mother can order one such deed to be done, who can hinder her ordering another. So, methinks, ’twere better for us both to be where she cannot reach us.”

So she wrapped a fine shawl round her poor step-sister’s head, so that none could tell what it was like, and, putting the real head in the basket, she took her by the hand, and the two set out to seek their fortunes.

They walked and they walked, till they reached a splendid Palace, and when they came to it Katherine made as though she would go boldly up and knock at the door.

“I may perchance find work here,” she explained, “and earn enough money to keep us both in comfort.”

But the poor Princess would fain have pulled her back. “They will have nothing to do with thee,” she whispered, “when they see that thou hast a sister with a sheep’s head.”

“And who is to know that thou hast a sheep’s head?” asked Katherine. “If thou hold thy tongue, and keep the shawl well round thy face, and leave the rest to me.”

So up she went and knocked at the kitchen door, and when the housekeeper came to answer it she asked her if there was any work that she could give her to do. “For,” said she, “I have a sick sister, who is sore troubled with the migraine in her head, and I would fain find a quiet lodging for her where she could rest for the night.”

“Dost thou know aught of sickness?” asked the housekeeper, who was greatly struck by Katherine’s soft voice and gentle ways.

“Ay, do I,” replied Katherine, “for when one’s sister is troubled with the migraine, one has to learn to go about softly and not to make a noise.”

Now it chanced that the King’s eldest son, the Crown Prince, was lying ill in the Palace of a strange disease, which seemed to have touched his brain. For he was so restless, especially at nights, that someone had always to be with him to watch that he did himself no harm; and this state of things had gone on so long that everyone was quite worn out.

And the old housekeeper thought that it would be a good chance to get a quiet night’s sleep if this capable-looking stranger could be trusted to sit up with the Prince.

So she left her at the door, and went and consulted the King; and the King came out and spoke to Katherine and he, too, was so pleased with her voice and her appearance that he gave orders that a room should be set apart in the Castle for her sick sister and herself, and he promised that, if she would sit up that night with the Prince, and see that no harm befell him, she would have, as her reward, a bag of silver Pennies in the morning.

Katherine agreed to the bargain readily, “for,” thought she, “’twill always be a night’s lodging for the Princess; and, forbye that, a bag of silver Pennies is not to be got every day.”

So the Princess went to bed in the comfortable chamber that was set apart for her, and Katherine went to watch by the sick Prince.

He was a handsome, comely young man, who seemed to be in some sort of fever, for his brain was not quite clear, and he tossed and tumbled from side to side, gazing anxiously in front of him, and stretching out his hands as if he were in search of something.

And at twelve o’clock at night, just when Katherine thought that he was going to fall into a refreshing sleep, what was her horror to see him rise from his bed, dress himself hastily, open the door, and slip downstairs, as if he were going to look for somebody.

“There be something strange in this,” said the girl to herself. “Methinks I had better follow him and see what happens.”

So she stole out of the room after the Prince and followed him safely downstairs; and what was her astonishment to find that apparently he was going some distance, for he put on his hat and riding-coat, and, unlocking the door crossed the courtyard to the stable, and began to saddle his horse.

When he had done so, he led it out, and mounted, and, whistling softly to a hound which lay asleep in a corner, he prepared to ride away.

“I must go too, and see the end of this,” said Katherine bravely; “for methinks he is bewitched. These be not the actions of a sick man.”

So, just as the horse was about to start, she jumped lightly on its back, and settled herself comfortably behind its rider, all unnoticed by him.

Then this strange pair rode away through the woods, and, as they went, Katherine pulled the hazel-nuts that nodded in great clusters in her face. “For,” said she to herself, “Dear only knows where next I may get anything to eat.”

On and on they rode, till they left the greenwood far behind them and came out on an open moor. Soon they reached a hillock, and here the Prince drew rein, and, stooping down, cried in a strange, uncanny whisper, “Open, open, Green Hill, and let the Prince, and his horse, and his hound enter.”

“And,” whispered Katherine quickly, “let his lady enter behind him.”

Instantly, to her great astonishment, the top of the knowe seemed to tip up, leaving an aperture large enough for the little company to enter; then it closed gently behind them again.

They found themselves in a magnificent hall, brilliantly lighted by hundreds of candles stuck in sconces round the walls. In the centre of this apartment was a group of the most beautiful maidens that Katherine had ever seen, all dressed in shimmering ball-gowns, with wreaths of roses and violets in their hair. And there were sprightly gallants also, who had been treading a measure with these beauteous damsels to the strains of fairy music.

When the maidens saw the Prince, they ran to him, and led him away to join their revels. And at the touch of their hands all his languor seemed to disappear, and he became the gayest of all the throng, and laughed, and danced, and sang as if he had never known what it was to be ill.

As no one took any notice of Katherine, she sat down quietly on a bit of rock to watch what would befall. And as she watched, she became aware of a wee, wee bairnie, playing with a tiny wand, quite close to her feet.

He was a bonnie bit bairn, and she was just thinking of trying to make friends with him when one of the beautiful maidens passed, and, looking at the wand, said to her partner, in a meaning tone, “Three strokes of that wand would give Katherine’s sister back her pretty face.”

Here was news indeed! Katherine’s breath came thick and fast; and with trembling fingers she drew some of the nuts out of her pocket, and began rolling them carelessly towards the child. Apparently he did not get nuts very often, for he dropped his little wand at once, and stretched out his tiny hands to pick them up.

This was just what she wanted; and she slipped down from her seat to the ground, and drew a little nearer to him. Then she threw one or two more nuts in his way, and, when he was picking these up, she managed to lift the wand unobserved, and to hide it under her apron. After this, she crept cautiously back to her seat again; and not a moment too soon, for just then a cock crew, and at the sound the whole of the dancers vanished—all but the Prince, who ran to mount his horse, and was in such a hurry to be gone that Katherine had much ado to get up behind him before the hillock opened, and he rode swiftly into the outer world once more.

But she managed it, and, as they rode homewards in the grey morning light, she sat and cracked her nuts and ate them as fast as she could, for her adventures had made her marvellously hungry.

When she and her strange patient had once more reached the Castle, she just waited to see him go back to bed, and begin to toss and tumble as he had done before; then she ran to her step-sister’s room, and, finding her asleep, with her poor misshapen head lying peacefully on the pillow, she gave it three sharp little strokes with the fairy wand and, lo and behold! the sheep’s head vanished, and the Princess’s own pretty one took its place.

In the morning the King and the old housekeeper came to inquire what kind of night the Prince had had. Katherine answered that he had had a very good night; for she was very anxious to stay with him longer, for now that she had found out that the Elfin Maidens who dwelt in the Green Knowe had thrown a spell over him, she was resolved to find out also how that spell could be loosed.

And Fortune favoured her; for the King was so pleased to think that such a suitable nurse had been found for the Prince, and he was also so charmed with the looks of her step-sister, who came out of her chamber as bright and bonnie as in the old days, declaring that her migraine was all gone, and that she was now able to do any work that the housekeeper might find for her, that he begged Katherine to stay with his son a little longer, adding that if she would do so, he would give her a bag of gold Bonnet Pieces.

So Katherine agreed readily; and that night she watched by the Prince as she had done the night before. And at twelve o’clock he rose and dressed himself, and rode to the Fairy Knowe, just as she had expected him to do, for she was quite certain that the poor young man was bewitched, and not suffering from a fever, as everyone thought he was.

And you may be sure that she accompanied him, riding behind him all unnoticed, and filling her pockets with nuts as she rode.

When they reached the Fairy Knowe, he spoke the same words that he had spoken the night before. “Open, open, Green Hill, and let the young Prince in with his horse and his hound.” And when the Green Hill opened, Katherine added softly, “And his lady behind him.” So they all passed in together.

Katherine seated herself on a stone, and looked around her. The same revels were going on as yesternight, and the Prince was soon in the thick of them, dancing and laughing madly. The girl watched him narrowly, wondering if she would ever be able to find out what would restore him to his right mind; and, as she was watching him, the same little bairn who had played with the magic wand came up to her again. Only this time he was playing with a little bird.

And as he played, one of the dancers passed by, and, turning to her partner, said lightly, “Three bites of that birdie would lift the Prince’s sickness, and make him as well as he ever was.” Then she joined in the dance again, leaving Katherine sitting upright on her stone quivering with excitement.

If only she could get that bird the Prince might be cured! Very carefully she began to shake some nuts out of her pocket, and roll them across the floor towards the child.

He picked them up eagerly, letting go the bird as he did so; and, in an instant, Katherine caught it, and hid it under her apron.

In no long time after that the cock crew, and the Prince and she set out on their homeward ride. But this morning, instead of cracking nuts, she killed and plucked the bird, scattering its feathers all along the road; and the instant she gained the Prince’s room, and had seen him safely into bed, she put it on a spit in front of the fire and began to roast it.

And soon it began to frizzle, and get brown, and smell deliciously, and the Prince, in his bed in the corner, opened his eyes and murmured faintly, “How I wish I had a bite of that birdie.”

When she heard the words Katherine’s heart jumped for joy, and as soon as the bird was roasted she cut a little piece from its breast and popped it into the Prince’s mouth.

When he had eaten it his strength seemed to come back somewhat, for he rose on his elbow and looked at his nurse. “Oh! if I had but another bite of that birdie!” he said. And his voice was certainly stronger.

So Katherine gave him another piece, and when he had eaten that he sat right up in bed.

“Oh! if I had but a third bite o’ that birdie!” he cried. And now the colour was coming back into his face, and his eyes were shining.

This time Katherine brought him the whole of the rest of the bird; and he ate it up greedily, picking the bones quite clean with his fingers; and when it was finished, he sprang out of bed and dressed himself, and sat down by the fire.

And when the King came in the morning, with his old housekeeper at his back, to see how the Prince was, he found him sitting cracking nuts with his nurse, for Katherine had brought home quite a lot in her apron pocket.

The King was so delighted to find his son cured that he gave all the credit to Katherine Crackernuts, as he called her, and he gave orders at once that the Prince should marry her. “For,” said he, “a maiden who is such a good nurse is sure to make a good Queen.”

The Prince was quite willing to do as his father bade him; and, while they were talking together, his younger brother came in, leading Princess Velvet-Cheek by the hand, whose acquaintance he had made but yesterday, declaring that he had fallen in love with her, and that he wanted to marry her immediately.

So it all fell out very well, and everybody was quite pleased; and the two weddings took place at once, and, unless they be dead sinsyne, the young couples are living yet.

Thomas the Rhymer


Of all the young gallants in Scotland in the thirteenth century, there was none more gracious and debonair than Thomas Learmont, Laird of the Castle of Ercildoune, in Berwickshire.

He loved books, poetry, and music, which were uncommon tastes in those days; and, above all, he loved to study nature, and to watch the habits of the beasts and birds that made their abode in the fields and woods round about his home.

Now it chanced that, one sunny May morning, Thomas left his Tower of Ercildoune, and went wandering into the woods that lay about the Huntly Burn, a little stream that came rushing down from the slopes of the Eildon Hills. It was a lovely morning—fresh, and bright, and warm, and everything was so beautiful that it looked as Paradise might look.

The tender leaves were bursting out of their sheaths, and covering all the trees with a fresh soft mantle of green; and amongst the carpet of moss under the young man’s feet, yellow primroses and starry anemones were turning up their faces to the morning sky.

The little birds were singing like to burst their throats, and hundreds of insects were flying backwards and forwards in the sunshine; while down by the burnside the bright-eyed water-rats were poking their noses out of their holes, as if they knew that summer had come, and wanted to have a share in all that was going on.

Thomas felt so happy with the gladness of it all, that he threw himself down at the root of a tree, to watch the living things around him.

As he was lying there, he heard the trampling of a horse’s hooves, as it forced its way through the bushes; and, looking up, he saw the most beautiful lady that he had ever seen coming riding towards him on a grey palfrey.

She wore a hunting dress of glistening silk, the colour of the fresh spring grass; and from her shoulders hung a velvet mantle, which matched the riding-skirt exactly. Her yellow hair, like rippling gold, hung loosely round her shoulders, and on her head sparkled a diadem of precious stones, which flashed like fire in the sunlight.

Her saddle was of pure ivory, and her saddle-cloth of blood-red satin, while her saddle girths were of corded silk and her stirrups of cut crystal. Her horse’s reins were of beaten gold, all hung with little silver bells, so that, as she rode along, she made a sound like fairy music.

Apparently she was bent on the chase, for she carried a hunting-horn and a sheaf of arrows; and she led seven greyhounds along in a leash, while as many scenting hounds ran loose at her horse’s side.

As she rode down the glen, she lilted a bit of an old Scotch song; and she carried herself with such a queenly air, and her dress was so magnificent, that Thomas was like to kneel by the side of the path and worship her, for he thought that it must be the Blessed Virgin herself.

But when the rider came to where he was, and understood his thoughts, she shook her head sadly.

“I am not that Blessed Lady, as thou thinkest,” she said. “Men call me Queen, but it is of a far other country; for I am the Queen of Fairy-land, and not the Queen of Heaven.”

And certainly it seemed as if what she said were true; for, from that moment, it was as if a spell were cast over Thomas, making him forget prudence, and caution, and common-sense itself.

For he knew that it was dangerous for mortals to meddle with Fairies, yet he was so entranced with the Lady’s beauty that he begged her to give him a kiss. This was just what she wanted, for she knew that if she once kissed him she had him in her power.

And, to the young man’s horror, as soon as their lips had met, an awful change came over her. For her beautiful mantle and riding-skirt of silk seemed to fade away, leaving her clad in a long grey garment, which was just the colour of ashes. Her beauty seemed to fade away also, and she grew old and wan; and, worst of all, half of her abundant yellow hair went grey before his very eyes. She saw the poor man’s astonishment and terror, and she burst into a mocking laugh.

“I am not so fair to look on now as I was at first,” she said, “but that matters little, for thou hast sold thyself, Thomas, to be my servant for seven long years. For whoso kisseth the Fairy Queen must e’en go with her to Fairy-land, and serve her there till that time is past.”

When he heard these words poor Thomas fell on his knees and begged for mercy. But mercy he could not obtain. The Elfin Queen only laughed in his face, and brought her dapple-grey palfrey close up to where he was standing.

“No, no,” she said, in answer to his entreaties. “Thou didst ask the kiss, and now thou must pay the price. So dally no longer, but mount behind me, for it is full time that I was gone.”

So Thomas, with many a sigh and groan of terror, mounted behind her; and as soon as he had done so, she shook her bridle rein, and the grey steed galloped off.

On and on they went, going swifter than the wind; till they left the land of the living behind, and came to the edge of a great desert, which stretched before them, dry, and bare, and desolate, to the edge of the far horizon.

At least, so it seemed to the weary eyes of Thomas of Ercildoune, and he wondered if he and his strange companion had to cross this desert; and, if so, if there were any chance of reaching the other side of it alive.

But the Fairy Queen suddenly tightened her rein, and the grey palfrey stopped short in its wild career.

“Now must thou descend to earth, Thomas,” said the Lady, glancing over her shoulder at her unhappy captive, “and lout down, and lay thy head on my knee, and I will show thee hidden things, which cannot be seen by mortal eyes.”

So Thomas dismounted, and louted down, and rested his head on the Fairy Queen’s knee; and lo, as he looked once more over the desert, everything seemed changed. For he saw three roads leading across it now, which he had not noticed before, and each of these three roads was different.

One of them was broad, and level, and even, and it ran straight on across the sand, so that no one who was travelling by it could possibly lose his way.

And the second road was as different from the first as it well could be. It was narrow, and winding, and long; and there was a thorn hedge on one side of it, and a briar hedge on the other; and those hedges grew so high, and their branches were so wild and tangled, that those who were travelling along that road would have some difficulty in persevering on their journey at all.

And the third road was unlike any of the others. It was a bonnie, bonnie road, winding up a hillside among brackens, and heather, and golden-yellow whins, and it looked as if it would be pleasant travelling, to pass that way.

“Now,” said the Fairy Queen, “an’ thou wilt, I shall tell thee where these three roads lead to. The first road, as thou seest, is broad, and even, and easy, and there be many that choose it to travel on. But though it be a good road, it leadeth to a bad end, and the folk that choose it repent their choice for ever.

“And as for the narrow road, all hampered and hindered by the thorns and the briars, there be few that be troubled to ask where that leadeth to. But did they ask, perchance more of them might be stirred up to set out along it. For that is the Road of Righteousness; and, although it be hard and irksome, yet it endeth in a glorious City, which is called the City of the Great King.

“And the third road—the bonnie road—that runs up the brae among the ferns, and leadeth no mortal kens whither, but I ken where it leadeth, Thomas—for it leadeth unto fair Elf-land; and that road take we.

“And, mark ‘ee, Thomas, if ever thou hopest to see thine own Tower of Ercildoune again, take care of thy tongue when we reach our journey’s end, and speak no single word to anyone save me—for the mortal who openeth his lips rashly in Fairy-land must bide there for ever.”

Then she bade him mount her palfrey again, and they rode on. The ferny road was not so bonnie all the way as it had been at first, however. For they had not ridden along it very far before it led them into a narrow ravine, which seemed to go right down under the earth, where there was no ray of light to guide them, and where the air was dank and heavy. There was a sound of rushing water everywhere, and at last the grey palfrey plunged right into it; and it crept up, cold and chill, first over Thomas’s feet, and then over his knees.

His courage had been slowly ebbing ever since he had been parted from the daylight, but now he gave himself up for lost; for it seemed to him certain that his strange companion and he would never come safe to their journey’s end.

He fell forward in a kind of swoon; and, if it had not been that he had tight hold of the Fairy’s ash-grey gown, I warrant he had fallen from his seat, and had been drowned.

But all things, be they good or bad, pass in time, and at last the darkness began to lighten, and the light grew stronger, until they were back in broad sunshine.

Then Thomas took courage, and looked up; and lo, they were riding through a beautiful orchard, where apples and pears, dates and figs and wine-berries grew in great abundance. And his tongue was so parched and dry, and he felt so faint, that he longed for some of the fruit to restore him.

He stretched out his hand to pluck some of it; but his companion turned in her saddle and forbade him.

“There is nothing safe for thee to eat here,” she said, “save an apple, which I will give thee presently. If thou touch aught else thou art bound to remain in Fairy-land for ever.”

So poor Thomas had to restrain himself as best he could; and they rode slowly on, until they came to a tiny tree all covered with red apples. The Fairy Queen bent down and plucked one, and handed it to her companion.

“This I can give thee,” she said, “and I do it gladly, for these apples are the Apples of Truth; and whoso eateth them gaineth this reward, that his lips will never more be able to frame a lie.”

Thomas took the apple, and ate it; and for evermore the Grace of Truth rested on his lips; and that is why, in after years, men called him “True Thomas.”

They had only a little way to go after this, before they came in sight of a magnificent Castle standing on a hillside.

“Yonder is my abode,” said the Queen, pointing to it proudly. “There dwelleth my Lord and all the Nobles of his court; and, as my Lord hath an uncertain temper and shows no liking for any strange gallant whom he sees in my company, I pray thee, both for thy sake and mine, to utter no word to anyone who speaketh to thee; and, if anyone should ask me who and what thou art, I will tell them that thou art dumb. So wilt thou pass unnoticed in the crowd.”

With these words the Lady raised her hunting-horn, and blew a loud and piercing blast; and, as she did so, a marvellous change came over her again; for her ugly ash-covered gown dropped off her, and the grey in her hair vanished, and she appeared once more in her green riding-skirt and mantle, and her face grew young and fair.

And a wonderful change passed over Thomas also; for, as he chanced to glance downwards, he found that his rough country clothes had been transformed into a suit of fine brown cloth, and that on his feet he wore satin shoon.

Immediately the sound of the horn rang out, the doors of the Castle flew open, and the King hurried out to meet the Queen, accompanied by such a number of Knights and Ladies, Minstrels and Page-boys, that Thomas, who had slid from his palfrey, had no difficulty in obeying her wishes and passing into the Castle unobserved.

Everyone seemed very glad to see the Queen back again, and they crowded into the Great Hall in her train, and she spoke to them all graciously, and allowed them to kiss her hand. Then she passed, with her husband, to a dais at the far end of the huge apartment, where two thrones stood, on which the Royal pair seated themselves to watch the revels which now began.

Poor Thomas, meanwhile, stood far away at the other end of the Hall, feeling very lonely, yet fascinated by the extraordinary scene on which he was gazing.

For, although all the fine Ladies, and Courtiers, and Knights were dancing in one part of the Hall, there were huntsmen coming and going in another part, carrying in great antlered deer, which apparently they had killed in the chase, and throwing them down in heaps on the floor. And there were rows of cooks standing beside the dead animals, cutting them up into joints, and bearing away the joints to be cooked.

Altogether it was such a strange, fantastic scene that Thomas took no heed of how the time flew, but stood and gazed, and gazed, never speaking a word to anybody. This went on for three long days, then the Queen rose from her throne, and, stepping from the dais, crossed the Hall to where he was standing.

“‘Tis time to mount and ride, Thomas,” she said, “if thou wouldst ever see the fair Castle of Ercildoune again.”

Thomas looked at her in amazement. “Thou spokest of seven long years, Lady,” he exclaimed, “and I have been here but three days.”

The Queen smiled. “Time passeth quickly in Fairy-land, my friend,” she replied. “Thou thinkest that thou hast been here but three days. ‘Tis seven years since we two met. And now it is time for thee to go. I would fain have had thy presence with me longer, but I dare not, for thine own sake. For every seventh year an Evil Spirit cometh from the Regions of Darkness, and carrieth back with him one of our followers, whomsoever he chanceth to choose. And, as thou art a goodly fellow, I fear that he might choose thee.

“So, as I would be loth to let harm befall thee, I will take thee back to thine own country this very night.”

Once more the grey palfrey was brought, and Thomas and the Queen mounted it; and, as they had come, so they returned to the Eildon Tree near the Huntly Burn.

Then the Queen bade Thomas farewell; and, as a parting gift, he asked her to give him something that would let people know that he had really been to Fairy-land.

“I have already given thee the Gift of Truth,” she replied. “I will now give thee the Gifts of Prophecy and Poesie; so that thou wilt be able to foretell the future, and also to write wondrous verses. And, besides these unseen gifts, here is something that mortals can see with their own eyes—a Harp that was fashioned in Fairy-land. Fare thee well, my friend. Some day, perchance, I will return for thee again.”

With these words the Lady vanished, and Thomas was left alone, feeling a little sorry, if the truth must be told, at parting with such a radiant Being and coming back to the ordinary haunts of men.

After this he lived for many a long year in his Castle of Ercildoune, and the fame of his poetry and of his prophecies spread all over the country, so that people named him True Thomas, and Thomas the Rhymer.

I cannot write down for you all the prophecies which Thomas uttered, and which most surely came to pass, but I will tell you one or two.

He foretold the Battle of Bannockburn in these words:

“The Burn of Breid Shall rin fou reid,”

which came to pass on that terrible day when the waters of the little Bannockburn were reddened by the blood of the defeated English.

He also foretold the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland, under a Prince who was the son of a French Queen, and who yet bore the blood of Bruce in his veins.

“A French Quen shall bearre the Sonne; Shall rule all Britainne to the sea, As neere as is the ninth degree,”

which thing came true in 1603, when King James, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, became Monarch of both countries.

Fourteen long years went by, and people were beginning to forget that Thomas the Rhymer had ever been in Fairy-land; but at last a day came when Scotland was at war with England, and the Scottish army was resting by the banks of the Tweed, not far from the Tower of Ercildoune.

And the Master of the Tower determined to make a feast, and invite all the Nobles and Barons who were leading the army to sup with him.

That feast was long remembered.

For the Laird of Ercildoune took care that everything was as magnificent as it could possibly be; and when the meal was ended he rose in his place, and, taking his Elfin Harp, he sang to his assembled guests song after song of the days of long ago.

The guests listened breathlessly, for they felt that they would never hear such wonderful music again. And so it fell out.

For that very night, after all the Nobles had gone back to their tents, a soldier on guard saw, in the moonlight, a snow-white Hart and Hind moving slowly down the road that ran past the camp.

There was something so unusual about the animals that he called to his officer to come and look at them. And the officer called to his brother officers, and soon there was quite a crowd softly following the dumb creatures, who paced solemnly on, as if they were keeping time to music unheard by mortal ears.

“There is something uncanny about this,” said one soldier at last. “Let us send for Thomas of Ercildoune, perchance he may be able to tell us if it be an omen or no.”

“Ay, send for Thomas of Ercildoune,” cried every one at once. So a little page was sent in haste to the old Tower to rouse the Rhymer from his slumbers.

When he heard the boy’s message, the Seer’s face grew grave and wrapt.

“‘Tis a summons,” he said softly, “a summons from the Queen of Fairy-land. I have waited long for it, and it hath come at last.”

And when he went out, instead of joining the little company of waiting men, he walked straight up to the snow-white Hart and Hind. As soon as he reached them they paused for a moment as if to greet him. Then all three moved slowly down a steep bank that sloped to the little river Leader, and disappeared in its foaming waters, for the stream was in full flood.

And, although a careful search was made, no trace of Thomas of Ercildoune was found; and to this day the country folk believe that the Hart and the Hind were messengers from the Elfin Queen, and that he went back to Fairy-land with them.



This is a Scottish traditional recipe that has not been modified from its original version. You will need to substitute for modern ingredients as required.

You will need:

– 1 cup of oatmeal
– 1 teaspoonful of melted fat
– pinch of baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoonful of salt
– hot water

1. Mix dry ingredients and add fat.

2. Add sufficient water to make a moderately stiff dough.

3. Roll out as thin as possible.

4. Bake one side on girdle till corners begin to curl, toast in front of fire or under grill.

5. May also be baked in moderately hot oven. When rolling out use plenty of oatmel and handle quickly.

Real Scottish Haggis


This is a Scottish traditional recipe. You will need to modify with modern ingredients as required.

1. Procure a large stomach bag of a sheep, as well as its liver, lights and heart. The bag must be well washed, first in cold water, then plunged in boiling water and scraped.

2. Then soak it in cold water and salt all night.

3. Wash the pluck and soak in ocld water and salt.

4. Boil pluck (which is liver, lights and heart) for 14 hours. In boiling, leave the windpipe attached and let the end of it hang over the edge of the pot so that the impurities may pass freely out. When cold, cut away the windpipe and any bits of skin or gristle. Grate or put through the mincer, adding 1/2 lb. suet.

5. Mix all this mince with 2 cupfuls of oatmeal, previously dried before the fire, 1/2 pint of the pluck liquid, season with pepper and salt.

6. Fill bag only a little more than half full to leave room for meal to expand. Sew up the bag, put in a pot with boiling water. Prick occasionally with large needle to allow air to escape. If the bag seems thin, tie it in a cloth. Put in plate to prevent sticking to bottom of pot. Boil 3 hours and serve.

NOTE: Instead of using a bag, make an ordinary suet paste of 8 oz. flour, 4 oz. suet, 1 teaspoonful baking powder; mix with cold water. Roll out paste, lay haggis inside and roll up. Lay in scalded floured cloth and steam for 3 hours.

Ladies Who Wish to Keep Their Spouses


A poem about the importance of cooking well, circa 1940 (possibly older) found in an old collection of Scottish recipies. Obviously, times have changed since then.

Ladies who wish to keep their spouses
Content and happy in their houses
Must learn that food to be a blessing
Must not be ruined in the dressing
It’s very nice to be good looking
But that will not excuse bad cooking
And men have got such funny natures
They’ll judge you on your beef and taters
So if you want to rule and lead them
You’ll do it if you nicely feed them.


Scotland’s Lost Country Houses


Have you ever taken a drive through the Scottish countryside and come upon a dilapidated structure and wondered what led to its demise? Or have you heard tales about demolished historical estates and want to know where they once stood?

There are many reasons Scottish estates have fallen to ruin during the 20th century, and Dr. Alastair Disley has been researching them since 2002. He opened his Scotland’s Lost Country Houses website in 2006 and since then he has been managing this fabulous non-commercial resource without any assistance from the public body. The result is nothing short of a gift to Scotland or anyone interested in Scottish history.

To date, Disley has included 530 lost country houses, 85 Scottish villas and 13 properties that were found after mistakenly being listed as demolished. Other homes were found when the shell and/or ruins were discovered to have been restored or fully incorporated into new structures. Surprisingly, a few buildings never even existed at all!

Due to his careful research and collaboration, Disley believes the information included on his site is at least 95% accurate, but he eagerly invites visitors to correct him if they find any mistakes. Disley uses over 40+ official Scottish resources to cross-reference his work. You can see his sources as well as the full list of homes on his website located here: Scotland’s Lost Country Houses

Stonehaven, Scotland



South Queensferry, Scotland


Picturesque South Queensferry is a beautiful waterfront town about 10 miles from Edinburgh city centre. The most noticeable (and photographed) feature here is the Forth Bridge, which is visible from most any point.

Several years ago, in the early stages of the construction of the new Forth road crossing, Mesolithic & Neolithic settlements were discovered at two sites beside the Forth estuary. A 64-page paper detailing the excavation can be downloaded here (PDF file).

You’ll find Edinburgh Road a bit narrow to navigate, but there’s ample of parking at the end of the street nearest to the bridge. It is a lovely stroll filled with colorful buildings, flowers, shops and plenty of places to pop in for a bite to eat.

Skateraw Road, Scotland


Pennan, Scotland


About 40 miles north of Aberdeen you’ll find the remains of the historic fishing village of Pennan reborn as a quaint holiday retreat bustling with activity, especially during the summer months. This picturesque area is also known as “Ferness, that place where Local Hero was filmed” by locals and tourists alike. (See the 1983 official movie trailer here).

We were thrilled to step inside the famous little red phone booth seen in the film, and we even heard you can still ring it up at +44 (0)1346 6210, although we didn’t try calling it ourselves to find out.

Landslips and cracks in the cliffs surrounding the village have caused a few evacuations over the years, but the regulars in Pennan don’t seem overly concerned about it. If you decide to make the trip, the Pennan Inn is an excellent place to stop for drinks or a meal.

Montrose at Night


Fishtown of Usan, Scotland


Erected in 1822, Fishtown of Usan was once a thriving fishing village, but unfortunatley its buildings have now fallen into ruin.  The most notable structure is the lookout tower, which is  at high risk of further deterioration since it is missing both a roof and floor.

This 13th century settlement was once a bustling, lively fishing community with single story cottages and successful trading. While the fishermen were out the sea, the women and wives used to make regular trips to nearby communities to sell their goods.

Fishtown of Usan is situated in an ideal location on a bay near Montrose. Without much encouragement, it is possible to imagine this little village springing back to life as you walk down its single, overgrown street.

The Wild Scottish Salmon Company still operates nearby, although it’s one of the last family run businesses of its kind in the region.

Catterline, Scotland


Catterline is a coastal village on the North Sea in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Prehistoric features in the local area include Bronze Age archaeological recoveries at Fetteresso, Dunnottar and Spurryhillock. The artist Joan Eardley lived in the village in the 1950s up until her death in 1963. Many of her wild seascapes were painted here.

Women in Scottish History


Women in Scottish History, or WISH, is a project funded and developed by the University of Guelph, and it’s a fascinating effort that originally launched in 2000.

The WISH database strives to collect and maintain four types of Scottish records, including:

– Bibliographies of Scottish Women
– Biographies of Scottish women
– Documents relating to the Women in Scottish History
– A list of researchers specializing in the field of Women in Scottish History

The database can be searched by keywords or by selecting a specific date range. While it’s not the easiest archive to navigate, the hunt is well worth it for tidbits of information. These little snapshots show us, little by little, the hardships and heartaches that Scottish women endured long ago.

One of the most fascinating collections is the document section and it’s extremely easy to get lost rummaging through it. These records are a treasure trove full of details and glimpses into the messy side of every day life. It’s the sort of stuff most of us hope never ends up in the public domain or (even worse) preserved for 500+ years.  As you read through these papers, you can’t help but feel compassion for these poor souls.

An example is a record of punishment for fornication under promise of marriage, dated 1606. In this document, a young woman, Agnes Wan, appears in Kirk Session of Dundonald with her fiance James Cander, where both confess “their meddling together” before taking official marriage vows performed in a church.

Another document dated 1568 in Aberdeen details the local church’s attempt to mend an irreparable marriage. Nothing works, of course, and so the couple is then called upon to appear in person to explain their circumstances. Unfortunately, for them, their misery is well documented as follows:

“The said Day, William Cryste, cordiner [shoemaker], being complained upon by Janet Kyd, his lawful married wife, for putting her away from him, and taking in her place a whore, called Margaret Myrton, and holding house with her, being called both before the Assembly, and accused of the same, could not deny it; and the said William plainly spoke and affirmed that he would never receive his wife again for any man that would speak with a tongue, wherefore the Assembly decreed and ordained them both to be punished conform to the act made against open adulterers.”

If a woman managed to avoid the fate of fornicator, adulterer or young widow, it still didn’t mean she was in the clear for an easy life. In 1589, poor Anny Sampson of East Lothian narrowly escaped death after the men in her village suspected she was a witch and went to the church to complain. She survived the accusation only to fall under similar charges in North Berwick later that year. Poor Anny.

The researchers at WISH say they are documenting “the fascinating history of Scottish women: What was written about them, and the short stories of their lives…” and we think they’re doing a wonderful job.

To learn more, please visit WomenInScottishHistory.org

Scots Words and Place-Names


Do you know the difference between a skellie and a skerrie or a smiddie and a souter? Or that wast is west and waster is wester? No? Then this website will help you out of the wuid and through the yett.

Scots Words and Place-names (SWAP) is a simple but highly useful website created through the collaboration of several organizations, including the University of Glasgow, the National e-Science Centre (NeSC), the Scottish Place-Name Society and Jisc. The project concluded in 2011, but its database is timeless.

The glossary itself is only 8 pages long, but it’s fully searchable and each entry provides the modern form of each word as well as its older Scots form. The etymology, definition, modern examples, historical evidence and other notes are also listed and provide a wealth of information.

Those interested in learning more can expand their research by making use of the extensive list of related links provided on SWAP.

You’ll find the glossary here: Scots Words and Place-names

Aberdeen Gardening


I am simply delighted to have stumbled upon a website that not only offers detailed information about all of the beautiful plants and flowers we can grow in Aberdeen, but also tells us the life story of the gardener, and family, and his great love of gardening.

“My interest in gardens and gardening began as a child. My brother and I visited and stayed over at our grandparents house regularly. We lived on the top floor of a tenement block, making the visits to grandmas house all the more special. They had a large garden which was beautifully maintained, the days spent there were the best of my childhood,” explains Alistair.

“In February of 1952 our father died at the age of thirty three, everything would now be very different. My poor mother did everything in her power to do what was best for her three children, myself at six years of age, my brother ten and my two year old sister who had been the apple of her fathers eye.”

The gardener goes on to tell us details of his marriage at a young age, the births of his children, and his first garden in Aberdeen. “It was a council house with a small garden, moving in with our two children who were still babies was like being given a mansion!”

In 1985 the family moved into their own home near the river Dee and they won their first gardening award in 1991, with many more to follow.

While you’re enjoying reading about Alistair and browsing through his photos, you may forget the whole reason you made the visit to his site, which was to learn about flowers, right? Don’t forget to visit the A to Z plant guide which is bursting full of colorful images or have a look at his extremely useful gardening calendar.

You’ll also find a wonderful page dedicated beautiful photos of Aberdeen, complete with enough details and information to satisfy most any tourist.

In one of his posts, Alistair brought tears to my eyes:

“Now when our grandsons visit I find myself wondering, when you are both grown up will you reflect on the times spent at grandma and grandads?”

You can find this treasure of a website located here: Aberdeen Gardening

Mountain Bothies Association


Bothies are a great way for groups of 5 or less to seek shelter from the elements while visiting remote areas and enjoying the glorious Scottish outdoors. Bothies are a wonderful example of community teamwork and when everyone follows basic guidelines, visiting one is almost always a pleasant experience.

Bothies are simple structures that lack most creature comforts outside of four walls and a roof. However, with careful planning, you can pack in essentials and a few extras to create a warm and welcoming arrangement in some of the most scenic and breathtaking locations around Scotland. And because the shelters are open to the public, there’s always the chance strangers will pop in and you’ll make new friends before your stay is over.

The Mountain Bothies Association seeks to educate outdoor enthusiasts about bothies and how to use and maintain them. The association provides detailed information about Scotland’s bothies, as well as a location map, maintenance reports, and a bothy code of conduct. You can also use the site to make bothy report.

If you decide to become a member of the Mountain Bothies Association, you’ll discover opportunities to join the work parties and crews that maintain some of the buildings. It’s a great way to help preserve the Scottish shelters that are especially critical and life-saving during emergencies.

You’ll find the website here: Mountain Bothies Association


Caledonian Maps


Tucked away in the Highlands, just off the A96 and a few miles in from the Moray Firth, you’ll find Caledonian Maps – a business known globally as the foremost specialist in historical maps of Scotland. Its range of maps will take you on an adventure dating back to 1610, but the company is also dedicated to the development of new maps using modern technologies.

Its archives include a rare atlas of Scotland dated 1912 (these are not copies, they are the originals published by Edinburgh Geographical Society), Town Plans from 1746 to 1825, Thomson Scottish Maps, Large Scale Counties to 1817, Victorian Ordnance Survey and so much more. On its website, you can search by place or type and if it happens you can’t find what you’re looking for, Caledonian Maps may be able to source it for you.

“We are passionate about maps,” states Caledonian Maps. “We love maps! We read old books about the origin of cartograpghy and about the first maps created covering Scotland. Drop by and have a cup of tea if you are passing by, but give us a quick call beforehand to check we are in.”

You can visit the website here: Caledonian Maps

Ancient Scotland


Martin McCarthy has been taking photographs of Scotland’s landscape since 1993 and selflessly documenting Scotland’s ancient sites online since 1995. Based out of Glasgow, McCarthy left his computer business to become a full-time photographer in 2007.

McCarthy’s story is evidence that when people follow their passions, all of us benefit. His website is modest, but he’s done a fantastic job organizing thousands of photos. Visitors can browse by list or map, and both are equally easy to navigate. What makes his site especially useful, however, is that he’s linked photos together based on location and distance. Click on any photograph and when you’re done, simply scroll to the bottom of the page to see other nearby sites which may grab your interest.

History lovers will be especially delighted with the rich details McCarthy provides with each set of photos. This is truly a hidden treasure that deserves a bookmark and a social share.

Find his website here and enjoy! http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/

Scottish Brick History


The Roman occupation of Scotland in first century AD brought brick-making skills to the Scots. Before the industrial revolution all bricks in Scotland were moulded by hand, a long process which began with the excavation of clay in autumn and ended the following summer when the bricks were fired in small kilns. One of the first industrial buildings to be built from bricks in Scotland was Stanley Mills in Perthshire, followed shortly after by numerous cotton mills in Glasgow.

The Scottish Brick History website is a growing index of brickmarks, the distinct markings that identify where bricks were produced. These unique marks tell us enriching stories not only about the brick makers, but of the high quality workmanship that went into the design of older buildings, from architects to construction. Selecting the right bricks was a crucial part of the buileint process because poorly made bricks cost more money in the long term when factoring in repairs and replacements.

Beautiful, high quality Scottish bricks surround us everywhere we go in Scotland, but many can also be found in buildings all over the world. An example is St. Judes Church in South America, which is constructed from Patent Wilson & Son bricks manufactured in Glasgow. Scottish bricks have even been found in California, New Orleans, Israel, New Zealand, Madagascar, Tasmania, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Russia.

The Scottish Brick History is a hobby website that has become a marvelous affirmation of Scotland’s significant and purposeful contribution to a shared world history.

Highlands Astronomical Society


The Highlands Astronomical Society (HAS) began like most astronomy clubs do, with a small group of passionate star-gazers meeting up to observe the world above together. In 1994, HAS was born from a sensible merger of two groups – the Moray Astronomical Society and the Inverness Astronomical Society. Its first public observing session was held in the car park at Culloden Battlefield. These gatherings continued on a somewhat informal basis until about 1997 when members began to push for more structure. Jim Savage-Lowden, Richard Pearce, Mike Reuss-Newlands, James Dick, Richard Green, Maarten de Vries, and Pauline Macrae are just a few of the founders of HAS, and it’s their hard work that brought it to life.

A lot of effort goes into creating an observatory. A permanent site was needed to build the structure, and planning permission was needed from the National Trust for Scotland. And, of course, there was the matter of finding the funds to purchase the required telescopes. But by 2002, membership was gaining momentum as more joined the effort to make HAS a reality. By 2006, HAS became an official registered charity with the support of many Scottish groups that sponsored its growth.

Today, the Jim Savage-Lowden Observatory is located at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre, and HAS members meet the first Tuesday of every month in Inverness. Membership is open at the rate of £20 per person or £32 per year for the whole family.

VISIT THE WEBSITE HERE: Highlands Astronomical Society