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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).

LAG, n.3 In phr. to play Lag, see quot.Gall. 1904 C. S. Dougall Burns Country 271:
Within living memory it was the fashion in Nithsdale and Galloway to preserve the terror and fascination that still cling round the name of Lag, by an annual performance, which was known as “playing Lag”. It required no rehearsal. A favourable opportunity for presenting the play was found on some stormy night about the time of Hallowe'en, when a company had assembled in farmer's kitchen or laird's dining-room for the play was known to “gentle and semple” alike. Some one began to speak of Lag's monstrous cruelty. Then some other spoke about his death — . . . It was the beginning of the play. The door creaked on its hinges, and the strangest being simple terror could conceive hobbled into the room. It had an enormous snout, great glaring eyes with hideous hairy eyebrows, a wide gaping mouth, and long upright ears; it moved about on all fours. . . . Then it suddenly pounced on some poor Whig, who shrieked in terror, and, as a rule, grabbed the long nose of the monster, and pulled at it until it came away, and revealed that useful kitchen implement known as a potato beetle . . . It served to perpetuate the exaggerated tales of the deeds and fate of the Laird of Lag.

[From Robert Grierson (1655–1733) of Lag in Dumfriesshire, a noted persecutor of the Covenanters.]

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"Lag n.3". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 26 Sep 2022 <>



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