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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 2002 (DOST Vol. XII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

(Wattirman,) Watterman, n. Pl. watir-, wat(t)er-, vatter-, waltermen, watermene. [ME and e.m.E. watyr-mene (?a1400) seamen, water man (1458) a man working on a boat, 18th c. Eng. watermen (1705) men employed in the supply and distribution of water, (1764) attendants on coaches whose function was to water the horses.]

1. The proprietor or possessor of a stretch of water, esp. with regard to fishing rights. 1560–1 Inverness Rec. I 52.
He coft the fyscharis met fysche; he and the last of the vatter men of the towne beand inhibittit to do the same
1564 Inverness Rec. I 117.
The prowest [etc.] … decernis all watter men to mak thayr partis of thair wattyr wark sufficient
1610 Inverness Rec. II 75.
We … ordanis that the remanent proprietaris, fewaris, tennentis and possessoris of the said Watter of Ness contribuit … four poundis … and the ressauiris of the said contrubitioun to be counttabill to the said wattermen
1641 Inverness Rec. II 178.
Quhidder the toune or wattermen hes the best richt to the woodis of the said ile and that be reasone Duncane Forbes of Cullodin ane of the quarter masters of the water of Nes, for himselff and in name of the remanent hes challengit the said timber to apperteine to them as heretoris of the said water
c1650 Spalding I 195.
The salmound fisheris both of Die and Done … oppressit and thair salmound takin … quhairvpone ane of thir rascall soldioures wes slayne at Die syde be the water men. Now thir wateris pertening heretablie for the most pairt to burgess covenanteris thay complanit vpone thir oppressiouns to the generall who commandit ane watche … to keip … the rivers … and thus the water men war maid frie
1676 Inverness Rec. II 269.
That he wes impeded be the wattermen … pending a right therto as they ar heritors of the watter quherof the counsell marwelled considdering that ther right leads tham onlie to the fisching

2. A person who transports or supplies water, cf. water wemen, wyif, etc. (Wat(t)ir n. 15 g). 1615 M. Works Acc. (ed.) I 363.
To the water men for leiding of tuelf laid of watter
1618 M. Works Acc. (ed.) II 49.
To the watermen for laiding of lxxi laid of watter

3. A boatman, a man who plies for hire on a river, specif. in London. 1621 Maxwell Mem. I 333.
At ȝour cumming out of Greinwiche … to the wattirman to bring ȝow to the brig … Mair to the wattirman for taking the coffir doune the wattir to the schip

4. A man who removes water from a mine. 1641 Acts V 419/2.
Watermene who leves and draves water in the coallheughe head
1680 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 28 Feb.
To the watter men for leading of faill into the loane head
1680 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 11 April.
For puteing of a scafold over the wattermens heid
1680 Sheriffhall Coal Accompt 12 June.
To the watter men & redsmen at seall tyme 9 gallons of ale
a1681 Tulliallan Coal Wks. 212.
Watir men

5. ? One employed to water horses, an attendant on coaches having this function. 1659 Misc. Hist. Soc. VII 37.
Setterday … the water men not well payed by Sanders Brun
1660 Johnston Diary III 78.
I went to Whythall and jacked their amongst the attenders and the waltermen to speak to som of the Counsel as they went in

6. A person whose occupation or status is connected with water, perhaps in one of the above senses, or ? a mariner or seaman. 1622–3 Mar & Kellie MSS Suppl. 150.
There is certaine advertissements cummed from Holand of a conspiracye … against the Prince of Orange. It was discovered bye two of their kynd of wattermen
1663–6 Household Bks. Archb. Sharp MS 41b.
To ane old watter man in the boulling greene [12 s.]
1640 Aberd. B. Rec. III 213.
Helen Mearnes, spous to Willeame Wilsoun, watterman

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"Wattirman n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 25 Apr 2024 <>



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