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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SKEECHAN, n. Also ske(e)chin, skeachan, skeichan, skiechan, skaichen, and reduced forms skeech, skeich. An intoxicating malt liquor produced in the later stages of brewing ale and formerly used by bakers in place of yeast; sometimes mixed with treacle or molasses and sold as a kind of beer (s.Sc. 1887 Fishing Gazette (2 July) 3; Cai., Edb. 1921 T.S.D.C., Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ags., Per., m.Lth., Gsw. (skeich) 1966). Sometimes also made from inferior or refuse barley (Sc. a.1838 Jam. MSS. X. 289), and hence applied to the top or to layers of malted barley in a brewery which are inferior in quality (Per. 1921 T.S.D.C.). Also the unused waste of a public-house, returned to the distillers (Ib.). [′skiç(ən)]Edb. 1827 Caled. Mercury (5 April):
The drink — better known by the name of skeechan, which he formerly ran down the common sewer as useless.
Edb. 1872 J. Smith Jenny Blair 12:
Wi' a bottle o' mixed horehound an' skeechin' for my cauld.
Gsw. 1886 Scottish Bakers' Year Book (1948) 71:
The thick of the liquor settled in the bottom (this I now know was the yeast) and on top there was a brown beer-like liquor, not so clear as beer. This liquor was intoxicating . . . known as “Skeechan”.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine at Exhibition 38:
To brew skeechin to slocken the Turks.
Hdg. 1903 J. Lumsden Toorle 15:
I was befool'd by lack of sleep, and too much skeich!
Cai. 1934 John o' Groat Jnl. (9 Nov.) 7:
The skeechan ale brewer.
Edb. 1948 People's Journal (24 July):
“Skeechan” is a drink which has been a Canongate speciality since time immemorial. Its contents are primarily sugar, yeast and herbs, but the carefully-guarded secret is in its manufacture.

[Variant of Caochan, Keechan, with prothetic s. See S, letter, 5.]

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"Skeechan n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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