Local Customs



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bulletLocal Customs
bulletFunerals, superstitions and beadles
bulletRowan tree and red thread
bulletJohn Rankin
bulletMr. Samson's sure cure
bulletTaking an oath
bulletNicol Hunter
bulletFood and Clothes
bulletThomas Dalrymple
bulletPastimes, Sports and Games

Local customs

Funerals, superstitions and beadles

If a Laird or a farmer died, practically the whole parish was invited to attend the funeral. Although the invitation was usually for 10am, and the service started then, the corpse was never interred until the evening.

Mr. Lapslie had a routine for what he termed "the old funeral entertainment." A prayer was said before and after the service. After the opening prayer, mourners had a drink of ale, then a dram, a piece of shortbread, another drink either of wine or spirits. This was followed by loaves and cheese, and pipes and tobacco. 

Sometimes this whole process was repeated, in which case,  it was called a 'double service.' Even if it wasn't repeated at that time, it was sure to be repeated at the 'dredgy.' The 'dredgy' was when the funeral party returned to the house of the deceased after the internment.

It was customary to have two wakes (called Lyke-wakes which means a watch over a dead person, plus festivities), before the funeral, when young neighbours watched the corpse, being sorrowful or merry according to the situation or rank of the deceased. The cost of this type of funeral was at least one hundred pounds Scots.

 Houses were covered in large spots of white paint when the head of the house died. The spots symbolized the tears shed by the bereaved family. In the case of a Laird dying, it was known for the house to be painted black, then daubed with white.

 Survival of old pagan rites or sun worship, such as washing with May dew; using charms, or under some conditions, salt being considered an effective charm. (Still are really)


Rowan Tree and Red thread

James Rankin of Haughhead was regarded as one of the most superstitious of men. If he started to go anywhere and met or saw anything he considered unlucky or an evil omen, he would turn at once and go home. He had a large horseshoe nailed to the outside of his door, and a piece of Rowan tree and red thread hung up inside; these being considered necessary to counteract or ward off witchcraft.

There was a saying that,

"Rowan tree and red thread,
Put the witches to their speed."  

In norse mythology, the Rowan was associated with stealing fire from heaven, the Rowan having sprung from the feather of the bird that stole the fire.

According to ancient customs, a slip of Rowan tree, tied with red thread - the berries being considered a charm against bad luck, was worn by people on the eve of May-day. A slip of Rowan was also frequently fixed above byre doors, because it had the power to avert evil and prevent 'mischief' from witchcraft.

Cameron tells of a very prominent, most respectable man on the Woodhead property, who, when going about on the Lennox Estates, would turn back home to Netherton is a hare happened to cross his path.

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John Rankin

John Rankin was a Mill wright in Lennoxmill, but retired when his wife succeeded to her fortune, and lived quietly at the Clachan. Considered to be an authority on cattle and their diseases, especially when supposedly caused by witchcraft. he was often called upon to advise farmers and others, not only in Campsie, but also in the neighbouring parishes of Killearn, Kippen and Buchlyvie.

Mr. Samson's sure cure

Mr. Samson, proprietor and occupier of Wetshod farm, astonished and amused a visitor by stating that his horse had died that morning despite the utmost care during its illness and his use of a specific 'cure' which he had been taught to regard as infallible.

This cure involved removing a horse shoe from another horse, boiling it in water for several hours, then making the ailing horse drink the liquid.

Taking an oath

One Haughhead woman, in a court of justice was called upon to take an oath. This she did, and gave evidence. A neighbour knew her witness was false, and asked how she could have said what she did under oath, and she replied, "Did ye no' see I kept my hand below my breath?" referring to some superstitious belief that, if the right hand was not held above the mouth when taking the oath, it was not binding.

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In 1804, a young woman named Bennie, residing in Netherton (or Calside or Cloch Core), became unwell. She had previously enjoyed robust good health, but was now ailing. Her appetite was poor and her spirit depressed.

The collective wisdom of the wise-women of the area could not discover the cause of the illness, so they thought the girl was bewitched by some evil-disposed person; perhaps a neighbour. 

Residents in the hamlet congregated in one of the houses and called in a witch-finder from Kilmarnock. He called upon each person to say 'The Lord's Prayer'. All was well until Mrs. Baird, who had a rather peculiar expression or pronunciation, spoke. She announced briskly "Our father, which wert in heaven," "Stop!" "Which wert in heaven?" "Ah! who was in heaven at one time and was put out?" "Why you devil!" said the Witchfinder, "Why, the woman's saying a prayer to the Evil Ane." On this ground alone he deemed her responsible for the girls illness.

Nicol Hunter

In the Clachan, the church beadle and the gravedigger were important people. For the first quarter of the century (until 1825), the beadle was Nicol Hunter, who eventually built the public-house at Haughhead Bridge.

It was customary for large towns to board out waifs and orphans in country hamlets and villages, and some of them were boarded in the Clachan. Nicol had two (2) of them, and when his daughter married, one of them kept house for him. She identified herself with his interests, and expressed her regret at the 'healthiness' of the parish, saying, that "No' a rib has crossed the Kirk-style for a month."

[Around this time Dr Norman McLeod came to Campsie.] Donald Blair took over Nicol's post. there were many stories about Donald's saying and actions. Donald also complained about the 'healthiness' of his parish. In response to an enquiry how he was getting on, he declared he "was no getting on at all." He had not buried a leevn' soul for six weeks.

One Dunfermline beadle was known to have said: "Deed, man, I'm feared to speir at onybody how they are, in case they might think I was wearyin' on them." He never dared say, "My services tae you" when taking a dram!

To a young dying man, who although weak and feeble, occasionally took a walk to the church-yard, Donald volunteered the comforting assurance, that he would 'gie' him a nice place in the grave-yard, a canny place near the Yett, where he wouldnae be jostled and hurt by the rush of the oncoming crowd on the Last day!

People complained about the 'elastic' scale of charges for grave digging with Donald. There was no fixed tariff, the price depending on the ability of the customer to pay.

[During the 1850s, the bell tower at the Clachan was still complete, and the bell continued to be rung for funerals and for Sunday evenings church meetings which took place in the parish school nearby. This bell was later moved to the Oswald school in Crosshill Street, then to Milton-of-Campsie Church, which opened in 1888.]                                   

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Food and clothes

In 1714, very little butcher meat was used, (except for the gentry), with only three cows being killed for winter beef for the whole parish.

No wheaten bread was used in the parish.

Men wore bonnets and plaids, plaid waistcoats and plaid hose, and no English cloth whatever was worn by the parishioners, the gentry  again excepted.

There was neither cart nor chaise, and the gentry rode to church on horseback.

Thirty years later, in 1744, it was noted that there was still no wheaten bread, nor were potatoes, carrots or turnips used by  locals. Only a few Kail were planted. There was still no chaise in the parish, but some carts were by now used to carry manure in the Spring. The wheels of carts weren't shod with iron.

Farmers used broad ploughs, with four horses yoked abreast when ploughing.

By 1794, there were major advancements with nearly 200 carts in the parish. Potatoes and wheaten bread were being used, and there were even two bakers in the parish, and nearly three hundred (300) cows were killed annually for winter provision.

Young men were now dressed in English cloths, fancy vests with thread or cotton stockings, and girls had cotton garments of clothing, and black silk cloaks and fancy bonnets.


It's not what people eat, but what they digest that makes them strong.

It's not what they gain, but what they save that makes them rich.

Thomas Dalrymple

There is nothing of particular interest about Mr. Dalrymple Junior except that he sent a copy of the Rangoon Gazette to the Kirkie Herald in 1888. This  Gazette gave an interesting report of how 'our brither Scots' held St Andrew's Day in the Assembly Rooms, Rangoon. The menu, is noted below.

Kail:                -Sheep's Head Broth, Cockie-leekie, wi' routh o' Bannocks and Scones.

Fish:                - Gleska Magistrates and Tatties wi' their Jaikets on.  Finnan Hadies.  Biled Partans, 

                          Salmon frae the Tay, wi' Greens.

Side Dishes:   -Doo Tairt. Tripe and Ingans. Trindlin' Tammie, Minch Collops and Champit Tatties.

                           Sheep's Trotters in Jellie.

The Haggis:    -Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, etc.,  then a Dram.

Joints:               -Bubbly Jock and Ham. Puir Man o' Mutton, wi' Neeps. Saut Beef and Greens, Singed

                           Sheep's Heid.

Game:              -Paitricks. Wild Duck, Snipe.

Sweets:             -Groset tairt.  Apple Dumplin'. Puddin's and Jeelies. 

Anither wee Drappie

Kerbuck:            - Ices and Desserts. Cookies. Gundie, Claggun, Shortbread and Sweeties.


Digestion was aided by the stimulating influence of the bagpipes, and marches, reels and strathspeys, following each other in lively succession, and 'Auld Lang Syne' brought the proceedings to an end.


It's not what they read, but what they remember, that makes them learned

It's not what they possess, but what they practice, that makes them righteous.

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Pastimes, sports and games

In the 1850's one of the favourite games was 'handball'. This was played with two types of ball, namely  the ordinary tennis ball, or the caoutchouc (another name for rubber). This game was normally played against a wall, the players returning the ball either before it touched the ground, or in its first rebound. 'Rounders' and 'house-ball' were also favourite games. Another, 'smuggle the geg' was often played in the evenings. The 'geg' was generally a penknife, and the 'outs' had to get this to the 'den', the 'ins' capturing the smugglers; whoever caught the smuggler with the 'geg', changed places with them. One notable 'den' where the game was played in Lennoxtown, was where the Tea Rooms (Rae The Baker's) were subsequently built, near the head of Field Road (Station Road). This was thought to be an ideal 'den' because it could be reached from front, rear, and both flanks. 

 In order to play 'shinty', which was a very common game, boys searched hedges and woods to find a bent branch, suitably shaped for the purpose. Cricket was then only played at a single wicket, with a large stone generally serving as the wicket. ( By the 1890's, a form of 'double wicket' was introduced by Mr. James Sowter, a grocer and fan of the game.)

'Kickba', which was played infrequently, was a much more indiscriminate game than our modern day 'football'. 'Leap-frog', or 'Foot-and-a-half', was a common game, played both at school and in the evening. It is worthy to note that it was considered to be practiced by youths, long after they had left school!

At New Year there were 'shooting raffles'. Contestants would shoot at paper targets with small shot, the winner being the one who put the greatest number of pellets into the paper. The prize was invariably a cheese, with some other prize. This custom appeared to have been discontinued by the 1890s. 

In the school in New Year's Day, some people gathered and gave a small present to a Mrs. Hume who occupied the lodge at the end of the playground. This was a sort of survival of what was in parts of the country, where the teacher got presents at Hansel Monday. Its reminiscent of giving a present to someone who gets a new house - to 'hansel' the house. The word hansel or handsel is a gift for good luck at the beginning of a new year  or new venture. This practice is very much in evidence today.

[In the early to mid 1900s there was a rifle shooting range on the South Brae.]

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