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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

BAILIE, BAILLIE, Bailyee, Baily(e)a, Bail(l)y, Bailzie, Bailive, Bellyee, Bylly, n. [′beli, ′bəili Sc.; ′bei (obsol.), s.Sc.; ′belji s.Sc., Uls.; bɛlji Ork. + ′beljə]

1. The Baron's deputy in a burgh of barony. See also Baron Bailie. For Bailie of Regality see quot. from Erskine and Regality. Obs. exc. hist.Sc. c.1750 H. G. Graham Soc. Life 18th Cent. (1901) 209 Note:
As duties or “customs” to the hereditary sheriff or bailie of barony, each farmer supplied [etc.].
Sc. 1754 J. Erskine Princ. Law Scot. (1820) 40:
Where lands, not erected into a regality, fell into the King's hands, he appointed a Bailie over them, whose jurisdiction was equal to that of a sheriff.
Bnff. 1728 Trans. Bnffsh. Field Club (1888) 46:
In 1728 Baillie William Ord was bailie of the Regality of Ogilvie.
Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Fife and Kinross 157:
East of this and near to Edin. . . is Dairsie, a pleasant Seat, this belonged of old to the Learmonds, the Archbishops Bailives and Admirals of the Regality of St Andrews, from whom my Lord Lindesay purchased them.
Kcb. 1896 S. R. Crockett The Grey Man xxx.:
From the Earl as Bailzie of Carrick I got warrant . . . to be doer-in-ordinary for the young man James.

Combs.: (a) Bailie of the Abbey. (See quot.)Sc. 1890 Bell's Dict. Law Scot. 84:
The Bailie of the Abbey, is appointed by the Duke of Hamilton as heritable keeper of the palace of Holyroodhouse, and has jurisdiction in all civil debts contracted within the precincts of the Sanctuary. [“While the above still holds good the jurisdiction is a shadowy one, as imprisonment for debt was abolished in Scotland by the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1880, except for taxes, etc.” (Hdg.1).]

(b) Baily-court, the Court of the Baron.Sc. 1772 T. Pennant Tours in Scot. (1774) 178:
Justice is administered at the baron's baily-court, who has power to fine as high as twenty shillings.

(c) Baillie Days, days in which farmers were bound to labour for their lairds, and work under the supervision and orders of the bailie; also days on which farm people help each other in time of heavy work.Sc. 1928 Agric. Terms in Sc. Notes and Q. (Feb.) 35:
Baillie Days, days given as service dues.
sm.Sc. 1988 W. A. D. and D Riach A Galloway Glossary :
bailey day, bylly day a day on which people gather to help on a farm (e.g. to help a new farmer with ploughing)
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 38:
Bailly days were mentioned in tacks, as so many days of bailly harrowing [etc.].
“I owe him a baillie day in hairst for that, means a sound beating or very like it” (Curriehill).]

(d) Bailly-work, bail(l)ie-work, work to be performed by tenants as prescribed by the landlord's bailie.Wgt. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 II. 53:
Baillie-work, as it is termed, is common over the whole county of Wigton.
Kcb. 1791 Stat. Acc.1 196:
What is called the servitude of tenants, and bailie work, to the proprietors of land, is now almost entirely abolished in this parish.
Dmf. 1794 B. Johnston Gen. View of Agric. of Dumfries 86–87:
Boon or ‘bailly' work, as it is called, paying public burthens, fowls, or other casualties, by the tenants are great obstacles to agriculture.
[Bailȝe-work found in O.Sc. 1584 Waus Corr. I. 303 (D.O.S.T.).]

2. A municipal officer or magistrate, corresponding to the O.Sc. and Mod.Eng. alderman, next in rank to the Provost. The office was abolished in local government reorganisation in 1975 but still is used as an honorary title in some towns. Gen.Sc. Deriv. bailieship, a magistracy. Sc. 1754 J. Erskine Princ. Law Scot. (1820) 45:
Bailies of boroughs have jurisdiction in matters of debt, services, and questions of possession betwixt the inhabitants.
Sc. 1973 Scotsman (15 Aug.) 5:
The office and title of bailie will disappear after local government reform in 1975 when new justices of the peace will be appointed to serve as lay judges.
Sc. 1975 Scotsman (15 Feb.):
The general purposes committee of Edinburgh District Council yesterday reaffirmed their recommendation that the title of bailie should cease after the council take over from Edinburgh Corporation in May.
Sc. 2003 Press and Journal 30 Jun 9:
Bailie John Lynch, convener of the city council's cultural and leisure services, said: "Sir Roger is without a doubt one of the favourite exhibits and I'm sure he will receive pride of place when Kelvingrove reopens.
Sc. 2004 Scotsman 23 Jan 11:
Bailie Hanzala Malik, the convenor of the city's economic development committee, ...
Ork.(D) 1904 Dennison Orcadian Sk. 16:
I t'ink they wad hae ta'en doon the hoose an' hid hed no been aen o' the toon bellyees, 'at tald them what it wus, an' got some o' them tae skirl.
ne.Sc. 2000 Herald 20 Mar 23:
You don't have to be a councillor to be a bailie. You don't have to pay a subscription every year to stay in a special organisation: one fiver does for life. People who make jokes about the thriftiness of North-east people sometimes find that state of affairs a strange one, but it is true.
Peb. 1702 Rec. of Burgh of Peebles (1872) 402:
The provest [sic] baillies dean of guild thesaurer and counsell of Peebles . . . conveined for taking the oath of alleadgance and assurance to her Majestie Qween Anne, in obedience to ane proclamatione of counsel.
Gsw. 2004 Evening Times 11 Jun :
The Lord Provost's representative Bailie John Gray and fellow councillors ...
Gsw. 2004 Herald 28 Jun :
Glasgow Bailie Alan Stewart was asked to represent the city in New York ...
Lnk. 1708 Minutes J.P.'s Lnk. (S.H.S. 1931) 32:
John Semple, one of the present baillies of Hamiltone.
Lnk. 1858 G. Roy Generalship 144:
It will be better to keep the bailieship an open question until your own parliamentary election is over.
Rxb. 1868 Hawick Arch. Soc. Trans. 13/1:
Bailie Thomas Turnbull — or Bailyea Tammy, as he was familiarly called — seems to have been one of our most enterprising citizens.
Uls.(D) 1879 W. G. Lyttle Readings by Robin 22:
The Bailyee's a verra civil buddy, an' he'll no be hard on ye.

Phr.: hang a baillie, int. which perhaps owes its existence to the famous scene in Rob Roy.Abd. 1932 D. Campbell Bamboozled 68:
Bit hang a baillie! I niver eence wushed ye ony ill.

3. (1) A person set to guard the river fisheries (Cai., Bnff., Ags., Fif., Ayr., Dmf., Rxb. 2000s). (2) See 1933 quot.(1) Sc. 1888 N.E.D.:
In Scotland, constables specially employed in carrying out the Tweed Fisheries' Acts are called Water-bailies.
Abd.(D) 1900 C. Murray Hamewith 3:
Nae snaw bree now in the Leochel Burn, Nae a water baillie goupin'.
Ags. 1982:
A 'Baillie' is a river watcher.
(2) Ork. 1908 J. Firth in Old-Lore Misc., Ork., Shet., etc. I. viii. 307:
Every householder was a sheep-owner . . . each owner had his or her own mark registered with the bailie or “bailya” of the parish.
Ork. 1933 H.M.:
Bailie. A local parish or district official appointed by the Sheriff principal to hold local courts for the administration of justice and good neighbourhood, to see that the king's taxes were duly paid, to assist the minister in putting the acts and statutes of the Kirk into execution, and generally to carry out such instructions as might be issued by the Sheriff principal or his depute. [Based on J. Begg Orkney Bailies in Proceedings of the Ork. Antiq. Soc. III.]

4. A man, boy or girl in charge of the cows on a farm.Sc. 1928 J. Wilson Hamespun 62:
The bailie in the byre by noo Is muckin' out ilk stirk an' coo.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chron. of Keith Intro. vi.:
At a Queen's Assembly, the best-dressed Lady appeared in a Cotton Print that a Herd-Lassie (called in the North a “Cow Bailie”) now would scorn to wear on Sunday.
Bnff.(D) 1917 E. S. Rae Private J. M'Pherson, etc. 13:
Min', bailie, hain the strae.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 6:
He was whistlin' ower the travise to the baillie in the byre.
s.Sc. 1932 Old Kelso Days with Scott in Border Mag. (Sept.) 149:
You see him scaling the crags below the old keep, or by the side of the aged Sandy Ormiston, the “cow-bailie.”

Comb.: baillie loon, lad in charge of the cattle.Abd.(D) 1916 G. Abel Wylins fae my Wallet 15:
The baillie loon, that widdiefu', Files sets me at the kye.

5. A functionary in attendance on the chief personage as he held court during the celebration of the Carters' Play in various Lothian parishes (see quot.). m.Lth. 1911 J. Dickson Crichtoun 112:
The outstanding event connected with the "Carters' Play" was a grand mounted procession headed by a high functionary called "my lord", who had to pay a sum of five shillings for the honour. Two "bailies" rode alongside of him.

6. A big, stout man, one with a large "corporation" (Fif. 1962). Cf. 2.

7. Phr.: the Bailies of Bennachie, a voluntary conservation group founded in 1973 to help to preserve the environment and cultural heritage of Bennachie, a hill in Aberdeenshire. Sc. 1998 Aberdeen Evening Express 17 Jun 11:
But Fred Gordon, countryside ranger and Bailie of Bennachie, says help is at hand and Jock won't lose his head after all.
Sc. 2004 Press and Journal 6 Jul 4:
The Bennachie visitor centre - which is home to countryside rangers and the Bailies of Bennachie group - will be transformed. A modern visitor facility will house a hi-tech interpretative display.
The upgrade to the centre, opened 10 years ago by Prince Charles, who became an honorary bailie, ...

[O.Fr. bailif, bailli, Low Lat. *bajulīvus, from bajulus, a porter, Med.Lat. ballivus, balivus, baillivus. The Med.Lat. forms are prob. founded on Med.Eng. and Med.Fr. words. In O.Sc. bailie, bailȝe, etc., occur with meanings 1. and 2 above. Bailiff, bailive are less common in O.Sc.]

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"Bailie n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 May 2024 <>



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