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  • Writer's pictureMike Shepherd

BIZARRE TRADITIONS IN NE SCOTLAND OF OLD

Updated: Oct 24, 2022


Logie Buchan Kirk


From An Echo of the Olden Time from the North of Scotland by Reverend Walter Gregor (1874).


Building a house: On laying the foundations of a house, there was the indispensable funin pint. The workmen were regaled with whisky or ale, with bread and cheese. Unless this was done, happiness and health would not rest on the house. It is told of a manse on the banks of the Spey that the minister refused to give the usual funin pint, and that, out of revenge, the masons built into the wall a piece of gravestone. The consequence was, the house proved unhealthy, and the ministers very short-lived.


Moving house: On removing from one house to another it was accounted unlucky to get possession of a clean house. “Dirt’s luck,” says the proverb. If one, who was removing from a house, was jealous of the successor, and wished to carry off the good fortune of the house, the outgoing tenant swept it clean on leaving it.





Birth: When the child was born, if it was a boy it was wrapped in a woman’s shirt, and if it was a girl it was wrapped in a man’s. If the operation was reversed the luckless victim of such an untoward act never entered into the joys of married life.


In washing the new-born infant great care was used not to let the water touch the palms of the hands, and this care was continued for a considerable length of time, under the belief that to wash the palms of the hands washed away the luck of this world’s goods.


Protecting the Newborn from fairy spells: To guard the child from being forespoken [taken by a fairy or falling under a fairy spell], it was passed three times through the petticoat or chemise the mother wore at the time of accouchement. It was not deemed proper to bestow a very great deal of praise on the child; and one doing so would have been interrupted by such words as “Gude sake, haud yer tongue, or ye’ll forespeak the bairn.” Such a notion of forespeaking by bestowing excessive praise was not limited to infants, but extended to full-grown people, to domestic animals, and to crops.


Children’s cradles: The cradle was an object of much care. A child was never put in a new cradle. A live cock or hen was first placed in it; and the first-born was never put into a new cradle, but into an old one, borrowed. In sending the cradle it was not sent empty. In some districts, if it was borrowed for a girl’s use, a live cock was tied into it, and if for a boy’s, a live hen. In other districts it was filled with potatoes, a bag of meal, or such like... It was not allowed to touch the ground till it was placed on the floor of the house in which it was to be used.


Baptism: If a boy and a girl were to be baptised together, the greatest care was taken to have the parents so placed that the minister must baptise the girl first. This procedure was followed under the belief that, if the boy was baptised before the girl, he left his beard in the water and the girl got it.


If it happened that a girl was brought to church to be baptised, and returned without baptism, she died unmarried.



Maggie'sHoose, Cairnbulg. A nineteenth-century fisher cottage.


Seeing your future husband: The maid who was desirous of seeing who was to be her husband had to read the third verse of the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Job after supper [Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me?], wash the supper dishes, and go to bed without the utterance of a single word, placing below her pillow the Bible with a pin stuck through the verse she had read. The future husband was seen in a dream.


COPYRIGHT MIKE SHEPHERD 2022



IF YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE... You could try my new book - North Sea Heroes - Seven true tales of derring-do from Scottish history.



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The walls of the octagonal hall inside Slains Castle

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