Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/185

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177
NOTES AND QUERIES.

as well as a ploughman, was necessary. Each gaudsman had a peculiar whistle, known to the cattle in his charge. The gaudsmen prided themselves on their skill in whistling, and, as it differed in power as well as beauty, they were valued accordingly. A valley was made 'blithe with plough and harrow,' my uncle told me ; quite otherwise in his young days than now. The phrase 'whistling at the plough,' refers, I think, to the gaudsmen, and not to the holders of the stilts.

"My uncle told me that his father (it was at a farm called Newbigging, in the parish of Drumblade, Aberdeenshire) was once very angry with him for daring to propose that they should dispense with the ceremony of breakfasting at the plough, at a first yoking in the spring, on account of unpleasant weather : it was indispensable that the family should breakfast at the plough-tail ; and cheese (never taken at breakfast on other occasions) was indispensable ; and it was indispensable that the gaudsman, after breakfast, should get a 'knievelock o' cheese' in his pocket to gnaw at (chaw at) during the day.

"At first I took this freit of my grand-uncle's for a peculiarism, like Dr. Johnson's touching the lamp-posts; but a man in the neighbouring parish of Gartly told me that his father also observed the custom most religiously, and that the whole family, after breakfast, when the plough started again, exclaimed, 'Gweed (i.e. Lord), speed the plough !' Once, instead of saying Gweed, he most wickedly and unadvisedly said Deil, and his father chased him through the field, caught him, and gave him what made him feel and fear, and not do the like ! This is all I know about 'the striking of the plough.' The question arises : Is it not the remains of some solemn sacrifice or religious ceremony in honour of a divinity presiding over agriculture ? My uncle, when a lad, and this other man, when a lad, though they did not say so, would probably know that their fathers were laughed at for their conduct, and were desirous to put a stop to it. But as 'the auld mear maun dee in some man's harm,' so it is with old customs too.

"The following will perhaps interest you as much as the above.