Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HECKLE, n.1, v.1 Also haickle, heckel, heccle. Sc. forms and usages of Eng. hackle. [hɛkl, hekl]

I. n. 1. The toothed comb-like implement used for dressing flax, a hackle (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.); one of its teeth or spikes; also used in reduced dim. form heckie (‡Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Combs. heckle-headed, with bristly hair (Sc. c.1785 John Thompson's Man (1829) 15), heckle-maker, heckle-teeth. Sc. 1724  Ramsay T.T.Misc. 64:
Lassie, lend me your braw hemp heckle, And I'll lend you my thripling kame.
Ork. 1728  H. Marwick Merchant Lairds (1936) I. 135:
Buy a good brass heckle midle size.
Edb. 1749  Edb. Ev. Courant (3 April):
John Hudd, Hecklemaker in Pleasance.
Lnk. c.1779  D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 16:
Jockey's mither was driven o're a kist, and brogget a her hips on a round heckle.
Ayr. 1790  Burns O, Merry Hae I Been i.:
O, merry hae I been teethin a heckle, An' merry hae I been shapin' a spoon!
Ork. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 V. 413:
At present, the flax is manufactured with brakes, switches, and coarse heckles.
Peb. 1805  J. Nicol Poems II. 157:
That his black beard is rough as a heckle.
Dmf. 1810  R. H. Cromek Remains 117:
Ye maun rake out the weeds wi' a gowd-teethed harrow. (A hill o' heckle teeth for to climb owre an' a'.)
Sc. 1812  Scott Letters (Cent. ed.) III. 73:
A heckle is the many-tooth'd implement with which hemp is broken and scutch'd.
Abd. 1835  Trans. Highl. Soc. 187:
Indispensable, for laying the ears even, to attach some sort of additional machinery to the common scythe, and which was attempted in the form of a comb or heckle projecting above the blade.

2. Fig. A severe drubbing, sharp criticism (Dmf. 1956); one who administers this. Also attrib. Sc. 1787  Burns's Works (Douglas) V. 410:
He was a hedge unto his friends, A heckle to his foes, ladye.
Mry. 1806  J. Cock Simple Strains 19:
Sing baith — sing baul' — nor dread the heckle, The Critic Lown will be a' traicle.
Bwk. 1821  W. Sutherland Poems 27:
But leaving this to some dry shaver, Wi' heckel tongue and head-piece clever.
Ayr. 1830  Galt Lawrie Todd iv. xi.:
What was the use of argolbargoling with such a heckle?
Kcb. a.1902  Gallovidian XV. 108:
For baith reproach and shame can gleesome caickle Ower proneness fa'en to dree compunction's heckle.

3. The long feathers found on the neck of certain birds, e.g. the cock, specif. applied to a cockade of such feathers dyed in various colours and worn in the bonnets of certain Sc. regiments, e.g. a red one by the Black Watch since 1795, a blue by the Cameron Highlanders since 1940, and a red and white by the Highland Light Infantry. Also attrib. Ags. 1803  R. Finlayson Arbroath Documents (1923) 41:
Caps for grenadiers with chains and feathers 11s.: do. for light company with chains, tassels and green heckles 11s. 9d.
Sc. 1834  Hist. Rec. Cameron Highlanders (1909) II. 276:
Bonnet cocked and feathered, with six ostrich feathers 14 inches deep; hackle, white vulture, 8 inches long.
Sc. 1893  Daily News (8 April) 7:
For Guildersmalsen, January, 1795, the men of the “Forty Twa,” were rewarded with ‘the glorious red heckle' or vulture plume, which has ever since been the distinctive badge of the Black Watch.
Sc. 1952  The 79th News (Sept.) 215:
The wearing of the Royal Blue Hackle with the balmoral was then instituted to mark the first occasion on which His Majesty visited a Battalion in the field.

4. The hackle feathers used to represent the legs in dressing artificial angling flies; a fly so dressed without wings, a hackle-fly (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Sc. 1861  J. Robertson Angling Scot. 11:
Artificial Flies . . .Wings blae; heckle black.
Lnk. 1886  J. Stewart Twa Elders 143:
I think I'll try the heckle.
Ags. 1898  A. H. Rea Divot Dyke 73:
As bonnie a cast o' hooks as ye could see — Heckles, and burrs, and ither kinds o' flee.

II. v. 1. To dress flax with a heckle (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 252). Ppl.adj. heckled, vbl.n. heckling. Also fig. Sc. 1732  Caled. Mercury (18 July):
Such Persons as buy undress'd Lint . . . may have it heckled, and their Tow and Grounds heckled or carded.
Ags. 1740  Private Inventory per
Two stone twice heckled lint.
Abd. 1768  A. Ross Poems (S.T.S.) 144:
An' syn ilka tait maun be heckl'd out throw.
Sc. 1799  Trans. Highl. Soc. I. 56:
A lad or two' in a parish, will be sufficient to heckle the Lint.
Sc. 1820  Scott Monastery x.:
The more pity that hemp was ever heckled for him.
Ayr. 1822  Galt Sir A. Wylie III. xxxiii.:
There be those of a worldly grain and substance, coarse to heckle, and ill to card.
Ags. 1891  Brechin Advertiser (4 Aug.) 3:
For a' that, there's a fell hair o' the carlin' hemp o' truth, weel heckled an' cairded up wi' the mair pliant towe o' imagination.

Hence (1) hecklary, a building where heckling is carried out; (2) heckler, a flax-dresser (Sc. 1782 J. Sinclair Ob. Sc. Dial. 201); (3) heckling-house, -room, -shop, a place where heckling is carried on; (4) hecklin kame, a heckle. (1) Rs. 1752  W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) I. 200:
¥60 stg. for building a hecklary. . . . In the neighbourhood are sevin parishes none above 14 miles from the hecklary.
(2) Sc. 1733  P. Lindsay Interest Scot. 160:
Skilful Hecklers for dressing of Lint for Spinning.
Ags. 1818  Scots Mag. (Sept.) 234:
An itinerant heckler comes to the house and prepares it [flax] for the spinning done by daughters and servants.
Hdg. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 II. 138:
An annual salary for an established lint-dresser and heckler.
Ayr. 1870  J. K. Hunter Life Studies iii.:
I lived . . . six and a half miles from Irvine, where he was a heckler.
Dmf. 1891  J. Brown Hist. Sanquhar 334:
The process at the lint mill was the separation of the tow from the lint, and the people employed at these mills were called “hecklers.”
Fif. 1898  S. Tytler Mrs Carmichael's Goddesses i.:
Mill girls and hecklers going in bands to their factories.
(3) Abd. 1776  Abd. Journal (8 April):
A convenient light heckling Room, with a large and complete Sett of Heckles.
Ags. 1845  Stat. Acc.2 XI. 201:
Nine licensed ale and whisky-houses, spinning and plash-mills, bothies, and a heckling-house, contribute nothing to improve the morals of the population.
Sc. 1876  S. Smiles Sc. Naturalist 50:
The boys were first put into the heckling shop.
(4) Edb. 1801  J. Thomson Poems 9:
An' last o' a', a hecklin' kame, A pair o' gude tow-cards.

2. intr. as passive. To undergo the process of heckling. Sc. 1733  P. Lindsay Interest Scot. 153:
This Kind of Lint heckles away almost to nothing, and is indeed in Appearance very fine.

3. To badger with questions, esp. with a view to discovering the weak points of the person interrogated (Sc. 1808 Jam.), such as a candidate at parliamentary or municipal elections. Now current in Eng. in this sense although orig. Sc. and appar. arising after the Ballot Act of 1872 which extended the franchise to practically every class of male citizen. Vbl.n. hecklin(g), a searching cross-examination (Sc. 1880 Jam.), specif. a public questioning of candidates at an election. Abd. 1868  G. Macdonald R. Falconer III. iii.:
I didna come here to be hecklet afore a jury.
Sc. 1874  Edb. Ev. Courant (31 Jan.) 4:
He was ashamed sometimes when he saw Tory, Whig, and Radical shuffling with the heckling.
Ayr. 1879  J. White Jottings 179:
We'll heckle weel, and a' that, Baith Tories, Whigs, and a' that.
Sc. 1886  A. Edgar Old Church Life II. 79:
All the parishioners meet for instruction in doctrine, and on week-days for being heckled on the question book.
Ags. 1889  Barrie W. in Thrums v.:
He went on the platform, at the time of the election, to heckle the Colonel.
e.Lth. 1892  J. Lumsden Sheep-Head 88:
Now shall each daurin' candidate Be heckled weel on Kirk an' State!
Fif. 1895  College Echoes (14 Nov.) 25:
There is no necessity that the heckling should be taken advantage of for revealing all the unknown and unfortunate experiences which may have befallen each candidate since he came to the University.
Lnk. 1895  W. Fraser Whaups of Durley iii.:
They were heckled by the maister about their knowledge.
Ayr. 1951  Stat. Acc.3 336:
Happily free speech and tolerance usually characterise election proceedings. The candidates get a good hearing but are well “heckled.”
Fif. 1955  St Andrews Cit. (28 May):
There has been an absence of real teethy heckling, and a more or less passive acceptance of the candidates' speeches.

Hence heckler, one who cross-questions esp. at elections; one who subjects another to a searching examination. Gall. 1824  MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 124:
Ha, melancholy mirky wight, Grim Heckler o' the feeling soul.
Sc. 1868  Edb. Ev. Courant (5 Oct.) 3:
The virulent and often unmannerly abuse heaped on them by their “hecklers” and by the Liberal press.
Sc. 1950  Scotsman (14 Feb.):
It was in dealing with the hecklers that he shone. In that he can seldom have had an equal.
Lnk. 1952  G. Blake Voyage Home 22:
A great man in his branch of the Union was her Jock, apt to be an active heckler at times of parliamentary and municipal elections.

4. To speak sharply and reprovingly (to), to give (someone) a dressing-down, to scold severely, to henpeck (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 76; Cld. 1880 Jam.; Abd.4 1929; Sh., m.Lth., Uls. 1956). Vbl.n. heckling, a severe scolding (Gregor) or fault-finding; wrangling. Ppl.adj. heckling, teasing, provoking to anger. Bnff. 1827  Aberdeen Star (20 July) 314:
They got sic a hecklin that I'm thinkin they winna seen forget.
Sc. 1846  Edb. Tales (Johnstone) II. 90:
I'll wager Andrew Howie has been gi'en him a hecklin.
wm.Sc. 1868  Laird of Logan 63:
If ye heard the hecklings I get frae my friends you would wonder some times how I keep my senses.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlv.:
Whether it was in accordance with proper etiquette in Johnny Gibb to invite Dawvid Hadden into his house, and then “heckle” him after this fashion, I shall not pretend to say.
Ags. 1888  Barrie Auld Licht Idylls iii.:
The nervous father clenched the railing in a daze, and cowered before the ministerial heckling.
Kcb. 1911  G. M. Gordon Clay Biggin' 8:
“I'll no pit him til the fash o' refusin' me,” heckled Auld Davy.
ne.Sc. 1928  J. Wilson Hamespun 18:
My neebor noo is keepin' hens, An' weel deserves a hecklin'.

III. Phrs. & Combs.: 1. heckle(d) biscuit, a type of hard biscuit made in Angus with a pinholed surface (Kcd. a.1920; Kcd., Ags. 1956 (heckle-)). Hence dim. hecklie; 2. heckle hoose, a building in which the process of heckling was carried on (Ags. 1895 Brechin Advertiser (1 Jan.)). Cf. v. 1.; 3. heckle-pin, one of the teeth or spikes of a heckle. Phrs.: to be (kept) on hecklepins, to be (kept) in suspense, on tenterhooks (Abd.1 1929; Per.4 1940; n.Sc., em.Sc.(a) 1956); to come (gae) o'er (thro'), the hecklepin(s), to be roughly handled, subjected to rigour or strict examination (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ags. 1956). The active sense is expressed by to put through the heckle-pins; the muir o' heckle-pins, the name of a children's game (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 76). Cf. 1870 quot. and Hecklebirnie, 2.; 4. to tak onesel ower the heckles, to take oneself to task; 5. heckle teeth, = 3. Hence phr. to sit on heckle teeth, to be in suspense. 1. Ags. 1886  Brechin Advertiser (10 Aug.) 3:
No only plain breed, but fancy stuff — cookies, hecklies, shorties, an' sic like.
Ags. 1896  Barrie Sentimental Tommy 318:
They have tried many ways of drawing Grizel, from heckle biscuits and parlies, to a slap in the face.
Ags. 1940 17 :
Anyone asking for a “cheesie” would be given and expect, what is now called a “hecklie” (owing to its being “pitted” all over the top surface, as if with hackle teeth).
2. Ags. 1772  Session Papers, State of Process, Mudie v. Ross 129:
The deponent one day met him in his own heckle-house.
Ags. 1888  Brechin Advertiser (30 Oct.) 3:
Doon by Murthie, fae whilk the heckle hoose an' the spinnin mill hae langsyne disappeared.
3. Edb. 1764  Edb. Paradise Regain'd 9:
They [goods] must go through the hecclepins of the inquisition kept at the ports of Edinburgh.
Fif. 1864  W. D. Latto T. Bodkin iv.:
I was rendered sae grumblesome an' camsteerie, that the haill hoosehold, mysel' included, were keepit on heckle pins baith by nicht an' by day.
Fif. 1870  R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 106:
The pownie wadna gie her a ride owre the muir o' hecklepins. And she had to gang on her bare feet, and the hecklepins cuttit a' her feet, and she could hardly gang ava.
Lnl. 1880  T. Orrock Fortha's Lyrics 109:
Ye're gaun awa' tae serve the frem, a hard thing, I can tell, For I've come through the heckle-pins, an', lass, I know it well.
Abd. 1882  W. Forsyth Sel. from Writings 25:
Ilk' hair grew like a heckle pin, As reekin' red his whiskers reise.
e.Lth. 1884  P. McNeill Tranent 181:
He knew how to put them through the heckle-pins.
Ags. 1896  A. Blair Rantin Robin 8:
Marget's juist on heckle pins to be up to the een amang the arrangements an' plans o' her neebors.
Lth. 1920  A. Dodds Songs 5:
And noo we're auld. O, Lord abune's, Gie us a while ta rest oor shins, For we're come thro' the hecklepins.
Ags. 1948  J. C. Rodger Lang Strang 20:
Jock's oot, Jock's in, Jock's through the hecklepin.
Sc. 1950  People's Friend (29 July) 625:
She would be in a fever during the tenminute run into the city, sitting on hecklepins.
4. Abd. 1893  G. Macdonald Heather and Snow xxi.:
I teuk mysel weel ower the heckles, but I cudna mak oot 'at I cud a'thegither help it.
5. Ags. 1893  F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. xi.:
What is't Betsy? Tell's the warst, an' no hae me sittin' on heckle teeth ony langer.

[O.Sc. hekle, n., = 1., 1493, = 3., c.1470; v., = 1., c.1470; to wrangle, 1600, Mid.Eng. hekylle. Prob. from M.L.Ger., M.Du. hekele, = 1. The Southern English form is hackle, with unexplained vowel.]

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"Heckle n.1, v.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Nov 2018 <>



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