Elizabeth Wilson Grierson.

Scotland online

. (page 5 of 6)
Online LibraryElizabeth Wilson GriersonScotland → online text (page 5 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


from Saturday evening till Monday morning.

Perhaps King Alexander thought that as every one
had a holiday on Sunday, people might be tempted to
go out and fish for themselves, and so too many salmon
might be caught.

This is how the quaint old law was worded and
spelt :

" The water sould be free, that na man sail take fisch
in it, fra Saturday after the Evening Song, until Mun-
day after the sunne rising."

In 1300, when the English King, Edward I., overran
Scotland with his troops after the defeat of John Baliol,
he brought with him his " nets and fishers " to catch
salmon out of the rivers as they passed, to supply the
royal table ; and when his son, Edward II., was pre-
paring to invade Scotland in 1322, he ordered the
citizens of Berwick to provide several hundred barrels
of salmon for the use of his army, all of which shows
us that even in those days fishermen fished for salmon
in the Scottish rivers, just as they do at the present
time.

66



Salmon-Fishing

It is very interesting to watch a party of fishermen
fishing for salmon. They use a long narrow net, with
pieces of cork fastened at regular distances along one
edge of it, and a rope fastened to each end. They
make one of these ropes fast to a windlass on the shore,
then they pile the net in a high heap on the end of
their little cobble, and row out into the river, or into
the sea at the river's mouth.

As the boat glides along, the net slips off" into the
water, where one edge of it sinks, while the other is
kept on the surface by the pieces of cork which are
attached to it.

The men row out a certain distance, then come back
to the shore, having let down the whole of the net.
They bring back the end of the other rope with them,
so that they have hold of the two ends of rope, while
the net can be traced by the bobbing corks, lying like
a half-moon on the water.

They light their pipes, and sit down and smoke for
half an hour or so ; then they begin to wind in the
ropes with the windlass.

Slowly the half-moon of bobbing corks is drawn
nearer and nearer, until at last the ends of the net are
drawn up on the shingle. Then four or six men step
forward, and, seizing the net, haul it in, hand over
hand, occasionally bringing in a great salmon, caught by
the gills, along with it, until at the end it comes in in
a sort of bag, or loop ; and, if the catch be a good one,
there may be ten, or twelve, or even twenty great
silvery fish in it, jumping about in wild confusion in
their efforts to get out of the net.

67 9 2



Peeps at Many Lands

There is another way of catching salmon, and that is
by fishing for them with a rod and line, just as people fish
for trout. This is done further up the rivers, where it
would not be easy, because of the shallowness of the
water, or the rocks in the bottom of the river, to fish
from boats.

Fishing for salmon in this way is most exciting, and
people often pay large sums of money for permission
to go and fish in some piece of water where it is known
that good sport is to be had. They rent part of a river
in fact, just as other people rent a grouse-moor or a
deer-forest.

Perhaps some of you have fished for trout in some
little river or moorland stream, and you know how
excited you are when whirr ! goes your line, and you
can feel from the strain on it that you have hooked a
trout. You know how careful you are to let him have
free play, and not to let your line get entangled in the
branches overhead, and how proud you feel when you
have got him safely landed.

And you can think how much more exciting it
would be, and what a difficult piece of work too, if,
instead of hooking a trout which weighs perhaps half
a pound, you had hooked a salmon which weighed
twenty or thirty pounds, and you had to " play " him
up and down a deep, swiftly-flowing river.

You can fancy how your arms would ache with his
weight, and how tired you would get, for sometimes a
salmon will rush up and down a river for two or three
hours, with his captor running up and down the bank
after him, before he manages to get him safely to land.

68



Salmon- Fishing

There is still another way of catching salmon, which
used to be practised a great deal, and is still carried on
occasionally in out-of-the-way parts of the country,
where the rivers are small and shallow enough to
wade in ; but it is against the law in fact, it is poach-
ing and people who are caught doing it may be put in
prison. It is what is called " bleezing," or " buring "
the water.

A party of men will steal out some dark night armed
with curious iron rods, called "leisters," which have
three sharp prongs at the end of them ; and, when they
get to a quiet part of a river, where no one is likely to
see them, one of them will produce a torch, which he
will light. Then they will all wade into the water, and
walk slowly up the stream ; and, when they come across
a salmon lying half buried in the sand at the bottom of
the river, or hiding behind some piece of rock, the
men with the leisters will spear him by the light of the
torch, while he is too confused by the unwonted glare
to try to escape.

This is a foolish and cruel way of catching salmon
however, because it is generally practised at a time of
year when the fish are unfit for food ; and, besides,
when the men have managed to spear them, they are
at a loss what to do with them, as they dare not sell
them openly indeed, they dare not be seen with them
in their possession.



CHAPTER XVII

NATIONAL GAMES

Golf

THERE are two outdoor games which are always thought
of as peculiarly Scottish. One is the " royal " game of
golf, and the other the " roaring " game of curling.

Perhaps you would like to know why each of these
has its distinctive adjective ? I will tell you.

Golf became known as the " royal " game because it
was a favourite pastime of the old Stuart Kings, and
curling is called the " roaring " game because of the
curious drawn-out rumbling noise which the curling-
stones make as they slip along the ice. This noise can
be heard quite a long distance off on a frosty day, and
would make anyone who was not accustomed to the
sound wonder what was happening.

I think it is hardly worth while trying to describe
the game of golf to you, for nowadays it is played
everywhere, and there is hardly a town without its
golf-course, and 1 dare say most of you have either
played it for yourselves or have watched other people
playing it, and you know all about "putting greens"
and " bunkers " and " hazards " as well as I do, and
could tell exactly what kind of cleek is needed to lift a
ball out of long grass, and when to use a club, and
when to use an iron.

But for the sake of any child who has never seen

70



National Games

the game, I may just say that it is played on short
tufty grass, with a little hard ball and a set of sticks or
clubs, some of which have twisted wooden heads and
some have iron ones.

There are tiny holes made here and there in the
grass, and flags are placed in them to let the players see
where they are, and they drive the balls with their
clubs from one hole to another, and the player who
sends his ball into all the holes in the fewest strokes
wins the game.

Golf-courses are not always on level ground ; indeed,
it is better if they are not, for then there are more
hazards to be met with that is, there are more difficult
places to drive the ball over, which add greatly to the
interest of the game.

For instance, if there are some little hillocks on
the course, there is always the chance that, instead of
clearing them, the ball will strike the side of the hill
and roll back again ; or, if there is a stream to be
crossed, the ball may fall into that, and so on ; so the
players need to have a great many differently shaped
clubs to play with, for it takes one kind of club to lift
a ball out of long grass, and another to send it high in
the air, and still another to roll it gently along the
turf, almost as if one were playing croquet, when it is
near a hole.

Golf-clubs are rather heavy, so golfers generally
employ a man or a boy to carry them for them, who is
called a "caddie," and these caddies walk behind the
players and hand them the different clubs which they
need in the course of the game.



Peeps at Many Lands

But although golf is played all over England and all
over the Colonies nowadays, no one forgets that it
came from Scotland, and has been played there for
hundreds of years, especially on the East Coast, where
the long stretches of sandy grass that run along the
sea-shore provided ideal golf-courses or "links."

And it was played so constantly, not only by the
nobles, but also by the common people, and so much
time was spent over it, that James I., who, as you
remember, spent his youth in captivity at far-away
Windsor, was quite disturbed when he came back to
Scotland, because he feared that his people would learn
to be better golfers than fighters. So, as he knew
what good bowmen the English archers were, he ordered
that Scotch lads should stop playing golf and begin to
learn archery " fra they be twelve yeir of age " ; and in
order that they might have plenty of opportunities to
do this, he caused " bow-butts," or targets, to be set up
beside every parish kirk.

His son, James II., and his great-grandson, James IV.,
also tried their best to " cry down golfe " as an " un-
profitable sport," but without much success, which is
not to be wondered at perhaps, when we find that
these Kings were very fond of the game themselves, so
they could hardly expect their subjects to give it up
while they went on playing it.

After the union of the crowns the Stuart Kings
continued to play golf whenever they came to Scotland,
and we read how the news of the Irish Rebellion was
brought to Charles II. when he was playing golf with
his courtiers on Leith Links, and how he dropped his

72






SPINNING IN SKYE.



National Games

clubs and drove back to Edinburgh at once, and left for
London immediately.

There is one town which may be called the " golfing
capital " of Scotland, and that is St. Andrews.

If you went there, no matter what time of year it
was, you would find the links crowded with players
from morning to night, and you would notice that a
great many of them wore scarlet coats, almost like the
coats which gentlemen wear when they are riding to
hounds.

These coats make pleasant touches of colour, and
they show that their wearers belong to a very old golf
club, which has been in existence for more than a
hundred and fifty years. It is called " The Ancient
and Royal Golf Club of St. Andrews," and its rules
are held to be authoritative by golf-players all over the
world.

CHAPTER XVIII

NATIONAL GAMES



Curling

IF golf were once the game of Kings, and is now
played principally by people who have time to spare
and a certain amount of money to spend (for people
have generally to pay a subscription when they join a
golf club), curling is a game in which every one can
take part, from the laird up at the " big hoose," to the
stonemason and the village tailor, and for this reason
every one loves it.

sc. 73 10



Peeps at Many Lands

Let us take a peep one cold, bleak January day into
some " far out-bye " little valley.

The hills are white with snow, and the ground is as
hard as iron ; but although the wind is cold, the sky
is the colour of a sapphire, and down on the square
pond, which lies behind the manse, a number of people
are gathered together, who are making such a noise
and looking so happy that we need not ask them if
they are enjoying themselves, or if they do not feel
cold.

They are curling, and we will stand still and watch
them for a moment.

There are sixteen players altogether, and they are
playing in two parties. Each party forms a " rink,"
as it is called ; so that makes eight players to each rink,
and of these eight players, four play on one side and
four on the other.

Each player has a couple of curling-stones, which
are made out of granite or whin-stone, and they are
about the size of a small cheese.

They are polished until they are quite smooth, and
in the top of each of them a small handle is fixed.

As you may think, these stones are very heavy. I
doubt if you could lift one of them if you tried.

Now that we have looked at the curling-stones, let
us look at some of the players. That gentleman over
there with the white beard is the laird. He lives up
in the big square house on the hill, and he keeps a
carriage and pair, and has a motor-car. Those two
young men in the light suits are his sons. One is at
Oxford reading for his degree, and the other is going

74



National Games

to be a soldier, so he is at Sandhurst. The fair-haired
girl in the red tam-o'-shanter is their sister.

There is another girl playing in the farthest-away
rink. She is the minister's daughter from the manse,
and there is her father ; you can know him at once
from his clothes. Her brother is here, too, home for
his holidays from Edinburgh, where he is learning to
be a doctor.

Then there are three or four other gentlemen, most
of them sheep-farmers, who live in the neighbourhood ;
and there is the country doctor, who has stolen an hour
or two from his rounds.

But there are other players here, who are neither
lairds, nor soldiers, nor farmers, nor doctors. There
is Rob, the moleman, who has come to curl because
the ground is too hard for him to catch moles ; and
Jock, the mason, who cannot go on with his work
because his mortar is frozen ; and Tom, the game-
keeper, and Davie, his son, whom the laird has sum-
moned from their ordinary employments to help to
make up the rinks ; and there is Andrew Davidson,
the tailor, who is the keenest curler in all the country-
side, who will gladly sit up all night to sew, if only
he can curl all day. For Andrew has another version
of the proverb, "Make hay while the sun shines,"
and that is, " Curl while the frost lasts."

Now Jet us watch how the game is played. It
reminds us somewhat of bowls, does it not? For a
player kneels down at one end of the pond, and,
swinging his heavy curling-stone in his hand, he half
throws, half pushes it along the ice, and away it slides

75 10 2



Peeps at Many Lands

towards the other end, where a mark called a "tec"
has been made on the ice.

Each player tries to send his stone as near this tee
as possible ; for, when all the stones have been thrown
up, it is the stones that lie nearest to it that count,
and each man tries to do the best he can for his
own side.

I say, " for his own side," not " for himself," for
curling, like football or hockey, is not a game where
every one plays for himself, but for his side.

The best player on each side is chosen as captain, or
" skip," as he is called, and he stands near the tee
and directs his men where to place their stones.
For it is sometimes as important to knock an
enemy's stone away, as to place one's own stone near
the tee.

Every one, as you see, is armed with a broom, and
as the heavy stones come smoothly up the ice the
players stand on both sides of the track eagerly watching
their progress.

Here comes a stone which seems as if it would stop
before it reaches the tee. " Soop her up !" shouts the
skip to whose side " she " belongs.

Instantly all the players on that side are working like
madmen, running alongside the stone and sweeping
every particle of ice or snow out of its way, in order
to make its course still smoother, and coax it on until
it reaches the tee.

Presently another stone comes up, this time from the
enemies' side. It is coming at a good pace, and
threatens to fly past the tee. Its owner watches it



National Games

anxiously, hoping that some tiny piece of snow may
come in its way and check its speed.

But no such luck. On it comes, steering clear of
all the other stones, which lie at various distances, and
passes the tee. But its speed is slackening. There is
a danger that it may stop abruptly and lie just behind
the goal, in which case it might be as near to it as the
stones which are lying on the other side.

"Soop!" cries out the victorious skip once more,
and a way is swept so clean before it by its enemies,
that it moves gently on, until it is quite out of the
running, and need no longer be feared.

" But," says some one, as we stand watching the
rink nearest us, " Andrew and Rob seem to be the
chief men here. How curious ! I should have thought
that the laird or the minister would have taken the
lead."

Ah, but that is just the glory of the old Scotch
game.

Andrew and Rob are the best players. They know
to a nicety exactly where each stone should lie, and
how much strength will be needed to knock an
opponent's stone out of its place, so they are chosen
to be skips, and Sir Ronald and Mr. MacGregor are
quite content to obey them and follow their advice.
And when Andrew shouts sternly, " She wants legs,
Sir Ronald ; can ye no' play a bit stronger?" the laird
takes the rebuke quite meekly, and runs himself with
his broom to " soop her up " ; while as for Mr. Mac-
Gregor, he avoids Rob's angry eye when his stone,
with which Rob had asked him to knock away one of

77



Peeps at Many Lands

the laird's, goes quite wide of the mark, and flies harm-
lessly into the bank.

Andrew and Rob mean no disrespect, and the laird
and the minister know it. And they know, too, that
when the frost has lasted long enough to allow a
" bonspiel "* to be played on some big loch like Loch
Lomond, and they would fain send a rink from their
quiet little valley to compete with the others, it is
Andrew or Rob to whom they must look for that
rink's success, and they will obey their orders as meekly
on the ice of Loch Lomond, as they are doing now on
their own little pond.

Ay, and when a rink wishes to go further afield and
take part in the great " bonspiels" which take place every
winter on the frozen lakes high up in the Alps in
Switzerland, it is no uncommon thing for the laird and
his friends to pay Rob or Andrew's expenses, if one of
them will consent to go with them and lead them to
victory in "foreign parts."



CHAPTER XIX

SHEPHERDS AND THEIR DOGS

I WONDER how many of the children who read this
little book have known a Scottish shepherd ?

I do not mean merely how many of you have known

* A curling tournament.
78



Shepherds and their Dogs

a shepherd by sight, but how many of you have known
one as a friend, have walked over the hills with him
when he has been gathering his sheep, and have helped
him to " drive twins " from one field to another in
" lambing time," when each silly mother has a couple
of long-legged lambs to look after, and insists first of
all in losing them, then in running after some other
sheep's lambs, under the impression that they are her
own.

If any of you have spent long afternoons out on the
hills in this way you are very lucky, for you will have
learned a great deal about Nature about animals and
how to treat them, about birds and where and when
they make their nests, and about the weather: what
signs show that it is going to be a fine day to-morrow,
and what signs show that it will rain.

You may not be aware that you have learned these
things, but you have, all the same ; for a shepherd
spends all his time in the open air, and knows about
them, and you cannot talk to him without learning
something about them too.

There is an old friend of mine whom I wish you all
knew. He is a shepherd, and his name is Robbie.
He has a kind face and a long silvery beard, and when
he is walking about among his sheep, with a lamb in
his arm, and his shepherd's crook in his hand, he makes
one think of the pictures of the Good Shepherd, only
one does not think of the Good Shepherd as an old
man.

Robbie has taken care of sheep all his life. He
began to be a herd laddie when he left school, and he

79



has seen many changes in the long years that have
gone by since then.

Nowadays when sheep and lambs are sold they are
taken to the nearest market, and then, if the distance
is too great for them to travel to their new quarters in
a day, or a couple of days, they are taken to the station
and put into trucks, and taken long distances by train.
But Robbie remembers, when he was a lad, seeing great
droves of sheep being driven slowly along certain paths
(which are called " drove-roads ") through the Border
hills, accompanied by six or eight shepherds ; and when
he asked these men where they came from, he found that
they had come with their flocks from the Highlands,
and that they were driving them over the Border and
down into England, and that they expected to be a
month, or five weeks, on the road.

These Highland shepherds were hardy men, for
Robbie remembers how they each carried a bag of
oatmeal, and how, when night fell, if they were near
no cottage, they simply made themselves " crowdy,"
by mixing a handful of oatmeal with a little cold water,
and when they had eaten that, they wrapped themselves
in their plaids and lay down to pass the night on the
hill-side beside their sheep.

But although shepherds nowadays have not to take
journeys like that, they have a hard and anxious life,
and have to brave all kinds of weather in the fulfilment
of their duty.

When a very bad snowstorm comes on, and every one
else is glad to stay indoors, Robbie and his friends have
to face the driving snow in order to see that their

80




A SCOTTISH DEER FOREST



Shepherds and their Dogs

flocks are in a place of safety, and next morning, when
the wind has gone down and the snow is no longer
falling, they must be early astir in order to see if any
sheep have been buried in the snowdrifts, and to carry
food to the whole flock if the snow is too deep to
allow them to get at the grass.

When spring comes the lambs arrive, and then the
shepherds are busy all day and half the night as well.
For they get up very early, often before it is light, and
go out with lanterns to see that all the little lambs are
comfortable, and that none of them are perishing for
want of food or shelter. And they go up and down
among them the live-long day, carrying flasks of hot
milk in order to give the weaklings an extra drink, or
bring orphans up " by hand."

But they try not to have many orphans. There are
mothers whose lambs have died, and there are lambs
whose mothers have died, and Robbie tries to make
the lambless mothers adopt the motherless lambs.
This sounds quite an easy matter, but I can assure you
that it is not ; for every sheep knows its own lamb,
not by sight, but by smell, and if Robbie were to put
down a strange lamb at a sheep's side in the hope that
she would accept it at once, he would certainly be dis-
appointed. The sheep would sniff the lamb for a
moment, then she would butt it away with all her
might, no matter how the poor little thing " baa'd."

No, Robbie is wiser than that. He takes the dead
lamb's skin and he ties it on the little orphan as tightly
as he can, and then he sets it down, a comical little
figure, beside the dead lamb's mother. And the trick

sc. 8 1 ii



Peeps at Many Lands

succeeds. The sheep sniffs the new-comer and is
satisfied, and lets the little creature nestle close to her
at once.

No sooner are the lambs fairly big and able to look
after themselves than another busy time comes on for
careful shepherds. It is drawing near " clipping time,"
or, as they would say in England, " sheep-shearing
time," and the sheep's fleeces are getting so thick and
heavy that if one of them chances to roll on its back
it cannot get up again, but will lie with its feet in the
air until it dies.

When a sheep gets on its back like this it is said to
be " awelled," and if ever you are going over the
hills in early summer and see a sheep lying on its back
with its legs in the air, if you have the pluck to go and
push it over on its side, so that it can get up, you will
probably have saved its life.

When there is a risk of sheep awelling, a shepherd
will " look his hirsel " that is, walk all over the ground
where his sheep are feeding three times a day, and this
means a great deal of walking, for he must do his work
so thoroughly that, when he has finished, he has looked
into every hollow where a sheep could possibly be
hidden.



82



Shepherds and their Dogs
CHAPTER XX

SHEPHERDS AND THEIR DOGS (continued]

BEFORE the clipping comes on, the sheep must be
washed, in order that their wool may be as clean as
possible when it is taken off.

Each sheep is not washed separately that would


1 2 3 5

Online LibraryElizabeth Wilson GriersonScotland → online text (page 5 of 6)