“Do you know George Henderson’s Popular Rhymes, Sayings, and Proverbs of the County of Berwick, with illustrative Notes (1856)? If not, the following quotation may interest you: ‘We have been credibly informed, by an eye-witness of the fact, that the operation of scoring above the breath was inflicted, or attempted to be inflicted, upon the person of an old woman of the name of Margaret Girvan, residing in Auchencrow, so late as the commencement of the present century. This atrocious deed was done by a neighbouring laird, because he imagined that the poor woman, who was gleaning in his fields at the time, was guilty of raising a wind to shake his corn!’— the poor laird, doubtless, had heard the rhyme,
“In the town of Auchencraw,
Where the witches bide a’.”
repeated a hundred times in childhood, and been informed that ‘scoring above the breath’ (drawing a gash across the brow) would render their spells innocuous; and it is not everyone who is able to throw aside the teachings of childhood, even in times of ‘advanced thought.’
“If I could be of any use in collecting folklore it would give me much pleasure.—Yours faithfully,“Robert Matheson.
“41, Caledonian Crescent, Edinburgh, March 1, 1889.
“Dear Sir,—I am sorry for the delay that there has been in sending you my remarks about the strikin’ o’ the pleuch. I have not been able to learn as yet the date of my grand-uncle’s death, but certainly the custom in question would be continued down to at least 1828, for he was alive then.
“The first yoking of the plough in spring was formerly called the strikin’ o’ the pleuch, but it had lost this name before—I am sure—1845, otherwise I would remember hearing it. I never heard it except twice, from two different persons, on different occasions, and only with reference to the obsolete custom of breakfasting at the plough-tail at the first yoking in spring.
“They ploughed in those days with wooden ploughs and “owsen”—often with twelve oxen to a plough; and a gaudsman (or goadsman),