Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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LEERIE, n.1 Also leery, leary. [′liri]

1. A lamp-lighter (Abd., Edb., Lnk. 1825 Jam.), freq. in full phr., from children's rhyme, leerie(-leerie)-licht-the-lamp(s), id. Gen.Sc., obsol. Also fig. Sc. 1812  The Scotchman 67:
That the Scotsman may lang be the leery o his countramen's min's.
Peb. 1826  R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes 153:
Leerie, leerie, light the lamps, Lang legs and short shanks. Tak' a stick and break his back, And send him through the Nor'gate!
Edb. 1828  D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1898) x.:
Leery-light-the-lamps was brushing about with his ladder in his oxter, and bleezing flamboy sparking out behind him.
Lnk. 1844  J. Lemon St. Mungo 73:
He was their leerie mony a year, He kept their lampies burnin' clear.
Abd. 1882  W. Forsyth Writings 23:
To see his [the Devil's] een like leeries' links.
Ags. 1896  Barrie Sentimental Tommy i.:
The lamps are lit by a magician called Leerie-leerie-licht-the-lamps.
Fif. 1897  Weekly Scotsman (6 Feb.):
I mind weel that in the last half of the “twenties” mysel' and ither laddies often ran after “Leerie” when he began to licht the lamps (whale oil brewed on the sands) as the nichts grew lang.
Slg. 1929  W. D. Cocker Dandie 32:
Carryin' his magic wand, Like a sceptre beamin', Up the street the leerie comes; A' the lamps are gleamin'.
Sc. 1953  People's Friend (10 Oct.) 25:
It is only about 20 years since most “leeries” disappeared.

Hence ‡leerie-pole, the pole used by lamplighters (Abd., Per., Fif. Lth., Gsw. 1960). Sc. 1957  Bulletin (7 Aug.):
They're just the starting times for work with a leerie pole.

2. The light of a lamp, candle, etc. (Cld. 1880 Jam.); a lamp (Clc., Lth., Peb., Dmf. 1960), also attrib. Gsw. 1860  J. Young Poorhouse Lays 95:
Catch, catch the leerie, my wce. doo, That's dancin' lichtly, brichtly noo.
Lnk. 1888  R. Bennett Poems 28:
Noo the gowan shuts its e'e, And the starnie lichts its leerie.
Lnk. 1923  G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 36:
See, on the dresser-heid there stauns A leerie lamp to fricht the dark.
Slg. 1932  W. D. Cocker Poems 127:
Ower the toun the gloamin' fa's, Sune they'll licht the leerie.

[From the first word of the children's rhyme given above, orig. purely alliterative and meaningless, and prob. the same as Leerie below.]

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"Leerie n.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Feb 2019 <>



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