Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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FOREST, n. Also †forrest.

1. Sc. Law: a large tract of ground, not necessarily wooded, and commonly bare and mountainous, orig. reserved for the hunting of deer and, as such, belonging to the Crown. Gen.Sc. and freq. in comb. deer-forest. The word is very similarly used in Eng. law. Sc. 1724  Morison Decisions 2463:
The forest of Alyth was as all the other forests, inter regalia. . . . The grant of such forest to a subject imported no right of property in the soil, but only a constitution of that subject to be heritable keeper of the forest.
Sc. 1773  Erskine Institute ii. vi. § 14:
Forests are inter regalia; or, in other words, no charter of lands granted by the crown, within which any forest lies, carries the property of it to the vassal, without a special clause in the grant. By a forest is understood a large tract of ground inclosed, where deer have been in use to be kept.
Sc. 1773  Boswell Tour to Hebrides (1785) 290:
They [the Cuillin hills of Skye] make part of a great range for deer, which, though entirely devoid of trees, is in these countries called a forest.
Sc. 1814  J. Sinclair Gen. Report Agric. Scot. I. 166:
The more remote hill or mountainous district, was either accounted a king's forest, or was occupied in common by all the proprietors or farmers in its vicinity.
Sc. 1862  Session Cases (1861–2) 681:
The Duke is in right of an ancient royal forest, and of the office of forester within its bounds.
Sc. 1872  Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club VI. 375:
An Englishman, new to the Highlands, passing through a northern deer forest, remarked to his native companion that he was surprised to see no trees there. “Trees!” said the Highlander, with undisguised contempt, “wha ever heard tell o' trees in a forest?”

2. Derivs. and phrs.: (1) forestry, Sc. law, a hunting forest, as in 1., the rights and privileges of hunting, etc. in such a forest; (2) free forest, a forest in which the hunting rights have been granted to the proprietor by the Crown under charter. Hence †free forester, one who has been granted or arrogates such rights to himself; later, a kind of outlaw or freebooter, poaching on deer forests. The phr. †free man in the forest, id., is also found; free forestry, hunting rights enjoyed under royal charter; (3) the muckle (the heid) forester, the wind, esp. one that fells trees (Mry., Bnff. 1953). (1) Sc. 1724  Morison Decisions 2463:
The pursuer was infeft in the sheilings within the forestry.
Sc. 1839  G. J. Bell Princ. Law Scot. § 753:
The right of forestry is not conferred by erection into a barony.
Bwk. 1876  Hist. MSS. Comm. Report V. 650:
An assault had been made on Sir Robert's attorneys while attempting to collect the old custom of the office of Forestry.
(2) Sc. a.1737  Major Fraser's MS. (ed. Fergusson 1889) II. 101:
This lay over silent till King George passed an act of Indemnity, at what time Kenneth Dow finding himself a free man in the forrest, commences a process of spoulizie against Major Fraser.
Sc. 1741  Session Papers, Fleming v. Elphinstone (2 Dec. 1803) App. 3:
The five-pound land of Cumbernauld, with the maines, castles, towers, fortalices, and free forests and pertinents of the same.
Sc. 1754  Erskine Principles ii. vi. § 4:
In charters granted with the right of a free forestry, the vassal was intitled to the privileges belonging to a King's forest. These were so grievous to the neighbouring proprietors that the court of Session gave their opinion for applying to the crown, against the future erection of lands into a forestry.
Abd. 1872  J. G. Michie Deeside Tales xxiv.:
It appears almost unfair to apply the term [poaching] to Sandy's high style of doing the thing. He was more like the “free forester” of the olden time, claiming the privilege he exercised as the unalienable right of a free born Scot.
ne.Sc. 1904  W. M. Smith Romance of Poaching 110:
To whom does this dead stag really and truly belong? Whether to the gracious lady who fed it, or to the gruff laird whose ground it fell on, or to the wealthy aristocrat who sent two bullets and a dog after it, or to the free forester who sent two bullets into it?
Abd. 1927  Deeside Field 35:
Bennachie up to 1859 was a Free Forest or Commonty.
Sc. 1949  People's Journal (3 Dec.):
Within a year or two of this contest, John Farquharson, the last of the free foresters, had all the keepers and police in the Highlands ranged against him.
(3) Mry. 1951  Bulletin (21 May):
I min the muckle forester (the wind) throwin an aik athwart the road, an didna that caa plans an time an time-tables aa tae crocinition?
Mry. 1953  :
The muckle forester was in the wid last nicht, i.e. trees were blown down.

3. Specif., with the: Ettrick Forest, roughly comprising the greater part of Selkirkshire. Hence phr. the Flowers o(f) the Forest, the name of a well-known Sc. tune, traditionally said to be a lament for the young men of Ettrick killed at Flodden. Sc. 1722  W. Macfarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 363:
The fforest is fitt for breading great store of white cattle. In it ther is ane hill called Kershope hill within a short mile of the water of Yarrow.
Sc. a.1750  Scott Minstrelsy (1802) II. 157:
The tune of the ballad is ancient, as well as the two following lines of the first stanza: — “I've heard them lilting at the ewes milking, . . . The flowers of the forest are a' wede away.”
Sc. 1814  J. Sinclair Gen. Report Agric. Scot. I. 25:
In the county of Selkirk, formerly known under the name of “The Forest.” a still smaller proportion of the land is under cultivation.
Sc. 1858  in W. L. Manson Highl. Bagpipe 143:
Accompanied to the grave by the pipers of the 42nd., 78th., 79th., and 93rd., playing the “Flowers of the Forest.”
Sc. 1886  T. Craig-Brown Hist. Slk. I. 58:
Although the county of Selkirk in its present area was long styled “the Shire of the Forest,” there can be no doubt that in ancient times the royal forest was of greater extent — particularly towards the west.
Sc. 1933  H. V. Morton In Scot. Again 589:
The wind that blew over it on that September night so long ago has been blowing through the heart of Scotland ever since. They call it “The Flowers of the Forest.” The sorrow of a nation found its voice in that lament.

[O.Sc. forest (of Ettrick), a.1153, fre forest, 1435, for(e)stry, a forest, 1495, hunting rights, 1681.]

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"Forest n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Mar 2018 <>



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