Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/324

This page has been validated.
First-Footing in Aberdeenshire.

stitious practice, the neglect of which was considered most ominous of ill luck, and for the carrying out of which she was mainly responsible. This was the belief that nothing must be carried out of a house on the morning of the New Year till something had been brought in.

An informant in the parish of New Machar (Mr. Wm. Porter), tells me that his parents are still living, and that they can recollect that in the beginning of the present century it was customary to go out and bring grass and water into a house on New Year's morning, before anything was taken out. This was to ensure plenty of food for man and beast all the ensuing year. A Stonehaven correspondent informs me that a green sod is brought in and laid on the grate cheek. While in the Tarland district of Aberdeenshire, the Rev. Mr. Skinner tells me that there it used to be customary to bring water from the well and peats from the stack the moment the New Year came in. The fetching of water from the well—"creaming the well," as it was called—appears from replies to my inquiries in different parts of the county to have been almost universally the first thing done on New Year's Day morning. An early call by the first-foot and his whisky-bottle obviated much of this worry.

Sometimes, instead of a whisky-bottle, the first-foot carries shortbread, oatcakes, "sweeties", and last, but not least, sowens. For the information of such as are unacquainted with the delicacies of the Scotch menu, I may say that sowens is a concoction something like gruel, but is made from the dust of oatmeal, mixed with the husks of the corn, which are left to steep till they become sour. The carrying of sowens is not, however, so much a custom of the first-footing of the present New Year's Day as of a parallel procedure on the eve of Old Yule; nor are the sowens, like the whisky or spiced ale, for internal application only. The Rev. Mr. Michie of Dinnet writes me as follows: "The carrying of sowens on Old Yule was mainly a token of hospitality. In this part of the country