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A Scottish Parish in 1730

Highland Thatched Cottage

At the above period there was not a hat to be seen in the whole congregation upon a Sunday. They wore Kilmarnock bonnets or caps of different colours. In church they kept on their bonnets and caps during the lecture and sermon, and took them off only during the prayer,
the singing of psalms, and the pronouncing the blessing.

Few or none of the common people could read, and the
precentor read the Scriptures to them in church before the minister made his appearance. They had no buckles in their shoes, but tied them with small leather thongs; had no metal buttons on their clothes, but large clumsy buttons of wood moulds, covered over with the same cloth as the coat. The men wore kelt coats, made of a mixture of black and white wool, as it came off the sheep, in its natural state.

Neither men nor women, in general, wore any shirts, and when they did, they were made of coarse wool; in general, they changed their plaiding shirts twice in the year, at Whitsunday and Martinmas. It was long before linen shirts came into use among the vulgar. They wore no shoes in summer nor winter, but in the time of severe frost and snow. Their children got no shoes till they were able to go to the kirk. The women wore coarse plaiding or drugget gowns, made of the coarsest wooL and spun in the coarsest manner.

The tenant’s wives wore toys of linen of the coarsest kind, upon their heads, when they went to chnrch, fair,
or market. At home, in their own houses, they wore toys of coarse plaiding. ‘the young girls wore linen mutches,
with a few plaits in them above their foreheads, when they went abroad to the church, or to fairs or market. At home they went bareheaded, with their hair snooded back on the crown of their head, with a woollen string in the form of a garter.

Their houses were the most miseralde hovels, built of stone and turf, without mortar, and stopped with fog or straw, to keep the wind from blowing in upon them. They had a window on each side of the house, which they opened or shut as the wind blew, to give them light. These windows they stopped with straw or fern. To such houses, when they kindled a fire, they lived in a constant cloud of smoke, enough to suffocate them, had they not been habituated to it from infancy. They had many of them no standing beds, but slept on heath or straw, covered with the coarsest blankets, upon the floor.

They kept their cattle in the same bouse with themselves, tied to stakes in one end of the house.
There was no division to separate the cattle from themselves. Their furniture consisted of stools, pots, wooden cogs, and bickers.

At their meals, they ate and supped altogether out of one dish. They lived in a coarse and dirty manner, and ate of the meanest and coarsest food. In general, their food consisted of brose, pottage, oat-meal flummery,
and greens boiled in water and a little salt. The dishes out of which they were fed were seldom washed after
meals, and, of course, were often thick with dirt. Each person in the family had a short hafted spoon made of horn, which they called a munn, with which they supped, and carried it in their pocket, or hung it by their side. They had no knives and forks, but lifted the butcher meat they ate with their fingers. ‘they ate little meat at that time excepting the off-falls of their flocks, which
died either by poverty or disease. At Martinmas they killed an old ewe or two, as their winter provision, and used the sheep that died of the braxy in the
latter end of autumn.

At that time, and for long after, there was not a cart in the parish. They led home their corn and hay in ears, and in trusses on the backs of their horses, and their peats in creels and sacks. The women carried out dung in creels on their backs, and the men filled their creels at the dunghill, and lifted it upon their shoulders. There were no saddles nor bridles, and they rode to church and market upon brechams and pillions placed on the horses, and halters on the horses’ heads made of hair. They shod their horses fore feet, but put no shoes upon their
hind feet.

They had no candles to give them light in the winter time. When the good man of the house made family worship, they lighted a russy, to enable him to read the psalm and the portion of Scripture before he prayed. The men had no razors, but clipped their beards every Saturday night with scissors, to appear more decent upon the Sunday. The lower class in general were tainted strongly with superstitious sentiments and opinions.

They used many charms and incantations to preserve themselves, their family, their cattle, and their houses, from the male volence of witches, wizards, and evil spirits They believed in benevolent spirits, which they termed brownies, who went about in the night-time, and performed for them some parts of their domestic labour, such as threshing and winnowing their corn, spinning and
churning.

Both men and women were robust and healthy, and
subject to few diseases. They were strangers to every complaint of a nervous nature. This arose from the hardy
manner in which they were brought up from their infancy, and being accustomed to watch their cattle without doors in the night during the whole summer and
harvest season
.



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