The following is from a letter of Mr. Robert Matheson, addressed to a friend, the Rev. J. S. Black, of 6, Oxford Terrace, Edinburgh, who gives me leave to publish it. The letter is dated 4, Caledonia Crescent, Edinburgh, November 12, 1888.
"I have been waiting for some information as to the present clyack ceremonies before writing you ; but it will be better to write now the little that I know and have learned about clyack thirty to forty years ago, and I shall write again if I learn anything new.
"At Corwichen, which is a small farm of fifty to sixty acres, no great style of feasting was possible ; but a 'clyack-kebbuck' was always produced and cut for the first time — at dinner, if clyack was got in the forenoon, and at supper, when otherwise. We called the last corn cut the 'clyack-shaif,' but it was much smaller than an ordinary sheaf ; and it was given to a favourite horse. It was made into a rude female figure, and got a drink of ale ; but I can distinctly recollect of this being done only once, and I will make enquiries. I learn from two acquaintances that in the neighbourhood of Roslin, and in the neighbourhood of Stonehaven, the last handful (or handfuls) of corn cut got the name of 'the bride,' and she was placed over the 'bress' or chimney-piece ; she had a ribbon tied below her numerous ears, and another round her waist.
"Under Kern, in Jamieson (Dictionary of the Scottish Language), there is some interesting information ; and in the poem called Har'st-Rig, where a kern is described, it is said in reference to the year Aughty-Twa : —
Lang was the har'st and little corn !
And, sad mischance ! the maid was shorn
After sunset !
As rank a witch as e'er was born —
"And there is the note as to the 'mischance' ; 'This is esteemed
- Clyack is the name given to the last sheaf in the north-east of Scotland. See Mr. Gregor, Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland, p. 181 sq.; id. in Revue des traditions populaires, October, 1888. [J. G. F.]