August 1st — Lammas
( Originally Published 1884 )
The reasons why the first day of August was denominated Lammas-day, and gule or yule of August, may perhaps be an entertainment for your readers.
The first of August is called Lammas-day, some say because the priests were then wont to gather their tithe lambs ; others derive it from the Saxon word Leffmesse, i.e., bread mass; it being kept as a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the corn. It is also called gule or yule of August, in old almanacs St. Peter ad Vincula ; it is derived from the French word guel, a throat, because, as the Catholics report, a certain maid, having a disorder in her throat, was cured by kissing the chains with which St. Peter was bound.
August 1st—Latter Lammas.
Lammas, "ad Graecas calendas," says he, i.e., never. But the question still recurs, " how came latter Lammas to signify never ?" I answer, the first of August had a great variety of names amongst our ancestors. It was called Festum Sancti Petri ad Vincula, Gula Augusti, Peter Mass, and amongst the rest Lammas. The two former of these names depend upon an old legend, which in Durantus runs thus : " One Quirinus, a tribune, having a daughter that had a disease in her throat, she, by the order of Alexander, then Pope of Rome, and the sixth from St. Peter, sought for the chains with which St. Peter was bound at Rome under Nero; and having found them, she kissed them, and was healed; and Quirinus and his family were baptized. "Tune dictus Alexander Papa hoc festum in calendis Augusti celebrandum instituit, et in honorem beati Petri ecclesiam in urba fabricavit, ubi ipsa vincula reposuit, et ad vincula nominavit, et calendis Augusti dedicavit. In qua festivitate populus illic conveniens ipsa vincula hodie osculatur." —Durant. rationale Divin. Offic. lib. vii., p. 240.* The festival was instituted on occasion of finding the chains, and of the miracle wrought by them, and so was entitled Festum Sancti Petri ad Vincula ; and because the part upon which it was performed was the gula or throat, in process of time it came to be called Gula Augusti. It took the name of Petermas partly from the Apostle, and partly, as I think, from its being the day when the Rome-scot or Peter-pence in ancient time (when that tribute was paid in this kingdom) was levied. The Confessor's law is very express: "The Peter-penny ought to be demanded at the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to be levied at the feast called Ad Vincula."
We come now to Lammas, of which there are two etymologies. The first is in Cowel: " Lammasday," says he, "is the first of August, so called, quasi Lamb mas, on which day the tenants that held lands of the cathedral church at York, which is dedicated to St. Peter ad Vincula,§ were bound by that tenure to bring a living lamb into the church at high mass." Cowel's "Interpreter." But this custom may seem too local to give occasion to so general a name, and, therefore, the etymon given us by Mr. Wheatly from Somner I would chuse to prefer. These gentlemen derive it from the Anglo-Saxon hlafmaessan, that is Loaf-mas, it having been the custom of the Saxons to offer on that day, universally throughout the whole kingdom, an obligation of loaves, made of new wheat, as the first fruits of their new corn. It appears from many passages of the Saxon Chronicle, that this name is of great antiquity; in some of them there is the p prefixed, which shews it has no relation to the lamb, agnus; and in others, as anno 913, 918, 921, and 1101 tor, 'tis expressly written hlafmaessan, and the learned editor and translator of the Saxon annals renders it everywhere, very justly, by Festum primitiarum.
Now, as to the point in hand, Lammas-day was always a great day of accounts ; for in the payment of rents, etc., our ancestors distributed the year into four quarters, Candlemas, Whitsuntide, Lammas, and Martinmas, and this was every whit as common as the present division of Lady Day, Midsummer, Michaelmas, and Christmas. In regard to Lammas, besides its being one of the usual days of reckoning, it appears from the quotation taken above from the Confessor's Laws, that it was the specific day whereon the Peter-pence, a tax very rigorously exacted, and the punctual payment of which was enforced under a penalty, by the law of St. Edward, was paid. In this view, then, Lammas stands as a day of accounts, and latter Lammas will consequently signify the last day of accounts, or the day of doom, which, in effect, as to all payments of money, and in general as to all worldly transactions, whatever, is never. "Latter" here is used for last, the comparative for the superlative, just as it is in like case in the Book of Job, xix. 25, " I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth," meaning the Iast day. That the last day, or the latter Lammas, as to all temporal affairs, is indeed never, may be illustrated by the following story. A man at confession owned to having stolen a sow and pigs. The father confessor exhorted him to restitution. The man said, some were sold and some were killed; but the priest, not satisfied with that, told him they would follow him to the day of judgment, if he did not make restitution ; upon which the man replies quickly, " I'll restore 'em then," as much as to say, never.
The inclosed letter, written in 1785 by a man of 70 years of age, describing the Lammas Feast (for which see "Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," and other customs of his early days, is at your service.
The antiquity and first institution of the Herds in the West end of Cramond parish and Corstorphin parish meeting together on Lammas day on Lenie-hill, and the Herds in the East end of Cramond and Costorphin [sic] parish meeting on Clermieston-hill, is of antient practice, and hath been handed down and kept in practice from century to century. As for the towries (towers) on the above-mentioned hills, which are about two miles distant from each other, and in view of each other, they were commonly taken little notice of through the year till a month before Lammas, when they were rebuilt and put in good repair ; their height about ten or twelve feet, about three yards wide at the bottom, built round with divots and stones till near the top, when several round divots were cut with a hole in each of them, and laid one above another on the top of the towries : and on Lammas morning the rod whereon our colours were fixed was put down the hole on the top of our towrie, and was seen by the Eastern party, letting them know that we were to meet them on Cramond Muir that day. And after the herds had all got dinner, their antient took them down from the towrie, and went down the hill. with flying colours, the piper playing before him, and the herds marching behind him in order, blowing their horns, till they came down to Lenie port, where their company increased, and became stronger by the young men that there met them before they marched to battle. The form of the herds' dining-table on Lenie-hill near their towrie was about thirty feet long, three feet broad. The table was made with divots with the green side up, and all the seats round the table of the same form ; and around all the table was cut out ground about a foot and a half deep, and the same breadth, that the herds might sit easie at dinner. The table continued from year to year, and needed little reparation. The common entertainment of the Herds' Lammas feast on Lenie-hill was sweet cream, butter, and cheese, which they had in abundance not only to feast themselves, but also poor boys that came that day to attend them. The Herds hired a taylor the night before Lammas, who ornamented their colours with ribbons sewed on a large table napkin, and afterwards put on a long rod, or fork-shaft. The ribbons were all borrowed from the young girls round the country-side they were acquainted with. In these days (about 50 years ago) there were no ribbons worn on the heads of farmers' wives, nor their daughters, nor their servant maids, in the West end of Cramond parish, save a belt ribbon which some young girls wore. I have heard it said that in a century back young maidens whose character was blameless in the eyes of the world, were married with their own hair ornamented, nothing on their head ; and widows, and young women that had lost their reputation, were married with toys sewed round with lace, which some old women wear yet at this day. The order of the herds marching to meet one another on Cramond Muir was thus : the piper went playing before, the antient with flying colours next, the herds in three men rank with horns blowing after ; and when they met on the road that yet goes through Cramond Muir, the East party stood on the East side of the road, and the West party stood on the West side of the road, and they saluted each other. The reason of a battle between the two parties was, when they were near equal in strength, that the one would not lower their colours to the other ; but when one party was stronger than the other, the stronger party asked the weaker party what they were for ; and if they said they were for peace, then the antient of the stronger party ordered the antient of the weaker party to lower his colours; and after lowering his colours, they shook hands, and ordered their piper to play up, and they took a dance together, and parted in peace. Sometimes they ran a race before they left the Muir ; and after that, each went to their respective places, and spent the afternoon in joviality, in running races, and playing at the ball and penny stone (quoits), which were games practised in these days. As for the number of men and boys, sometimes more, sometimes fewer, perhaps about thirty young men on the Western side and as many boys ; and as for the number of the races, sometimes two, sometimes three; and the common thing that the herds received that day from their masters to spend was two-pence. They gave a half-penny to the races, and a half-penny to the piper, and drank or played at the ball the rest. Sometimes the young men contributed, and made a race : the length of the foot-races about a mile out and in ; the prizes about six-pence the first, three-pence or a pair of garters the second, and a little meli to the third, and if any more running they had nothing.
I shall now give you an account of the bloody battle fought on Cramond Muir : I am not sure in what year it was fought, I think it was in 1734. I heard it said at the time that the battle was observed, by a gentleman who was riding through the Muir when it began, to continue half an hour. It was said at that time to be Mr. Stewart of Binnie. There were near as many of our party fled, as were of us that stood and hazarded our lives in the high places of the field. It was said that the above-named gentleman rode after those of our side that fled, and made them return back, threatening them that if they did not, he would shoot them ; for I heard it said at the time that it was in some measure owing to this gentleman that we gained the victory. That day, when we were marching to Cramond Muir, the place appointed for battle, l was in good spirits, for there were on our side about thirty stout young men and as many boys ; and that day the East party was first on the field of battle, and they sent out a spy to meet us, and to take a view of us on our march to them ; and so soon as he met us, he began boasting like Goliah of old, telling us that there was a man among them that would beat any two of us betwixt and Kirklistown new bridge. I told him that he was not sure of what he spoke till once he made it to appear. He also boasted that our company was weaker than theirs, and that we would be made to lower our colours. I told him that he was not sure of that neither, till he made it to appear. So when we met on the spot of ground where the battle was fought, the spy that met us, whose name was Grieve, pointing out from among their company to me, said that I was one that wanted matching. They all fixing their eyes on me, I spoke up, and said that, if they matched, we would match altogether. So their antient asked our antient, whose name was John Muir, what we were for? he returned him that answer, that he was for any thing that his company was for. So their antient told ours that we were weaker than them, and they would oblige us to lower our colours. So I then took a view of them, and turning, took a vie* of our own company; I thought we were an equal match to them. I then spoke up to our own company, and desired them not to lower our colours. One of them then took hold of our colours ; and expressed himself in the following manner : " Come, let us go to Mutton-hole." I then, seeing the fork-shaft taken hold of whereon our colours were fixed, to carry them off, was lifting my stick to knock him down. At the same instant, Grieve, whom I above named, having his eye on me, cried out that I was the first that lifted a stick. Then the battle was set on in array with great fury ; sure I am, not in military order, one knocking down another. If there were any bystanders there, they might have seen at the onset 20 or 30 knocked down in a minute ; and at the same instant there were four of them striking against me, and I alone striking against them, when one of them drew out from before me, and came behind my back, and struck me on the head, which made me fall to the ground ; and after lying on the ground, he struck me on the left arm and hand, which made my hand swell, being the hand that I held my stick in. So soon as I found them not striking on me, I sprang up to my feet ; my stick lying on the ground at my feet, I took hold of it, and the first man that I ran to and struck at was John Muir, our own antient, his back being to me, and being so ordered that I being at some distance from him, the end of my stick struck on his shoulders or back, which made him look back : I then seeing his face, said, " O John, is that you ?" I after ran to Robert Cunningham, at that time a farmer's son in Clermieston, and struck him on the head, which made him fall in a whin-bush, and made a woman cry out and call me a " murdering dog," for women were coming running for fear of their children : and the cry was flying through the country side that many were lying dead on the spot where the battle was fought. After that, the Eastern party were flying and running from the field where the battle was fought, and the cry was made through our camp that our colours were carried off by our Enemies ; for the fork-shaft broke near the end that our colours were fixed on, which gave one of them an opportunity of running off with them. It was said at that time that the person that ran off with both our colours and theirs did not stop till he was East at Wardie. So, after finding it true that we heard noised through our camp that our colours were carried off,notwithstanding we had the glory of the victory, it made our anger still to increase; and after consulting together, we agreed to take four pairs of shoes off their feet ; and having loosed the buckles of Thomas Hodges, yet alive, we changed our minds, thinking it too cruel. We then agreed and took four of their coats off their backs, the above-named person being one of the four, which we carried to Lenie-port in triumph, and kept till we received our colours. So we spent that afternoon rejoicing in the victory that we that day had obtained over our Enemies, and did run no races, but drank the money that we had collected for them ; and got our heads dressed that were wounded, Mrs. R. of P. being the only doctress that clipt off the bloody hair from several of their wounds, and dressed them. My head was not cut, though I got a stroke which made me fall to the ground.
Some days after the battle, we heard that our colours were lying at Cowet bridge, within a mile of Edinburgh. We wearying to get our colours back, in order to get the ribbons that were on them, which were borrowed from the young lasses in the neighbourhood, returned back to them, which would have been about one pound sterling in value ; about five or six of us agreed, all able young men, to go East, and get our colours ; and on our journey East we held a council of war, lest any of the men of the place, or washer-wives, should fall on us, or refuse to give us our colours, and agreed to stand close to one another with our backs to each other, that none might come behind our backs to knock us down ; and we all resolved to fight while we were able to stand ; but we received our colours without any resistance made, and ordered them to come West for their coats. I remember the year after, I went to Cramond Muir with the Western herds, and we were stronger than the Eastern herds ; and we made them lower their colours to the ground, and I trampled them with my feet, which was very mortifying to them. I heard it said that, several years before that time, the Eastern herds hired two soldiers that were marching on the road to go to Cramond Muir to fight with them against the Western herds ; and the same year the Western herds got the victory, and the soldiers got their skins well paid, which made them swear that they never would go to a club-battle again. I knew a married man who went to Cramond Muir with the Western herds one year, and carried their colours, and that his wife might not know, put a cravat in his pocket lest there should be a fight, and the cravat about his neck made red with blood: and the same year there was a bloody battle, which gave him occasion to put it about : his name was James Fortoun. I have heard it said long ago that they have been carried from the field of battle on both sides in blankets ; but I never heard of any that died.
The meeting together of the Whipmen, for any thing I know, is also of antient date. The reason of their meeting together once every year is to keep up brotherly love and good order among the whipmen. The young whipmen were received into membership about twelve or fourteen years of age, when they could drive a plough or go along with a full ploughman and drive two loaded horses ; for in these days, about forty or fifty years ago, before the toll-roads were made, coals and lime were carried in sacks on horseback, and when a young whipman was received into membership, he was bound to carry in his bonnet (for there were no hats worn among the vulgar in those days) a knife, needle, and thread, and if his neighbour's horse threw off the load, being alone, and they within cry of their neighbour, they were bound to return and help their neighbour on with his load. If one man came on the coal or lime hill, and several of his neighbours before him, they were bound to wait and help him and bring him along with them. They were bound not to speak ill of their master behind his back, but to be faithful in his service behind his back as well as before his face. When carts began to be in fashion after, the toll roads were made, if a whipman couped (overturned) his cart, he was fined, if tome (empty), eightpence ; if full, fourpence. Commonly the whipmen in these days had their meetings at public-houses on the road sides. Every meeting of whipmen had one bailie and two officers, which were chosen on the day of their meeting before they parted, and were to continue that year to observe good order in the quarter wherein they were members : and if any of that quarter was guilty of a fault, the bailie ordered his officer to summon him before him against their next meeting, and he was fined according to the rules of the law the whipmen prescribed. On the day that the whipmen met, being once a year in the summer season, they hired a piper, and were very merry in the afternoon ; sometimes the servant-girls that lived near the place of their meeting would come to them, and the young lads and they would have a dance together. When a gentleman was riding by the whipmen on his journey, the bailie of the whipmen, with his bonnet in his hand, and his officer at his back with the pint stoup and cap with ale, and the piper playing, the bailie of the whipmen saluted the gentleman, and desired the favour of him to drink with the whipmen. Commonly the gentleman stopped his horse, took the cap in his hand, and drank the bailie and whipmen's health ; and after throwing them a sixpence or shilling, they wished him a good journey with a loud huzza.
The blowing of horns is of antient date, as we read in scripture ; and still continues in practice by posts when coming through towns. Horns in the night-season are heard a great way off, and in the winter-season were blown at every farmer's house about eight at night, when they suppered the horses and cows ; and as there were no watches in these days, nor clocks in the West end of Cramond parish, the stars were their rule by night, to wit, the seven stars, the evening and morning stars, and the cock-crowing in the morning .
I had almost forgot to mark down the names of two of our men, which ought to be kept in record written on parchment in letters of gold : to wit, James Lerman, James Letham. The first fought with a strong Lillie oak stick, with a knot on the out end of it ; the second fought with two catch shafts, one of which he lifted from one of his neighbour's sides after he was knocked down ; he fought with one, and kept off the strokes that his Enemies gave with the other. These two men waxed valiant in fight, and made several to fall to the ground ; and, like David's valiant men of old, ought to be named among the first three.
As for the antiquity of the bagpipes, none can doubt but that they are of antient date, as we read of them written in Scripture. About 50 years ago I have been one of four coming home from the coals playing on the bagpipes ; about 40 loaded horses and 20 men and boys driving them. We have played on the bagpipes through Linlithgow, and all the shoemakers looking over their windows on us. I have played on the bagpipe through Borrowstounness after my horses were loaded, and have been saluted with the pint stoup and cap, and made to drink and nothing to pay. I have played on the bagpipe through the Grass market, Edinburgh, when coming from the East coals. In these days there were no Seceders. We were innocently merry together; and, like the primitive Church of old, continued in love one with another, being of one heart and one mind.