Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
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.

BEDDAL, BEDDLE, BEADLE, BEDDEL, BATHEL, BETHEL, BED(E)RAL, BEDREL, BETHERAL, BEDLAR, BEDLER; also Beadral (w.Lth. 1892 R. Steuart Legends 133), n. [′bid(ə)l (now the most gen. pronunciation), ′bɛdrɛl, ′bɛdlar, ′bɛdl, ′bɛdərəl, ′bɛð(ə)rəl, bɛd(ə)l]

1. A minor church official, whose chief duty is to attend to the minister, but who may also officiate as gravedigger and church bellman.Sc. 1692–1733 Lady Grisell Baillie's House Bk. (1911) Intro. p. xlv.:
£2, 18s. stg. is paid to Mrs Scott the midwife, 9s. 8d. to Mr Livingston for christening her, 3s. 8d. to the “bathel of the Church,” and 4s. 10d. in charity, up to the date of her marriage in 1717.
Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. xxxiv.:
I'm half a minister mysel', now that I'm a bedral in an inhabited parish.
Sc. 1858 E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. (26th ed.) vii.:
Even if ye had wanted a minister, I might hae helpit ye to get ane; but as for a gude beadle, that's about the maist difficult thing I ken o' just now. [Ramsay uses also the forms betheral and bederal, p. 305.]
Ork. 2000 Orcadian 11 May 20:
A photograph shows William Ballenden, sawyer (owner of Ballenden's parks), fisherman James Shearer, Tom Irvine, Joe Flett and John Budge and John Irvine, "beadle and bell-ringer in the Parish Church."
Ags. 1912 J. A. Duthie Rhymes and Reminisc. 42:
The “bethel” wi' his roosty keys, Wha garred the auld bell flee.
Fif. 1864 W. D. Latto Tammas Bodkin (1868) iii.:
Dominie Squeeker bein' sent for, advised that the betheral . . . sid be summoned to the manse.
m.Lth. 1796 Scots Mag. (April) 286:
The Church of Cranston, four miles south of Dalkeith, was totally consumed by accidental fire, which was occasioned by the beadle having left some coals in the stove.
Ayr. 1821 Galt Annals of the Parish xvi.:
The Session . . . gave orders to Willy Howking, the betheral, not to let them again so far into the kirk.
Wgt. 1721 in G. Fraser Sketches, etc. of Wgt. (1877) 122:
I have laboured in weakness . . . and have never met with any such abuse from any of them as from this Beddel.
Kcb. 1899 H. B. Craig in Gallovidian i. 15:
Cushey looked annoyed and the bedral turned uneasily.
Dmf. 1891 (2nd ed.) J. Brown Hist. of Sanquhar 415:
There's three bedlers (Wanlockhead for beadles) in it.
Rxb. 1711–26 Hawick Arch. Soc. (1900) XXXII. Intro. 108:
Thus a man was seen on a winter's night coming down the “beddal's stair.”

2. A town-bellman.Sc. 1842 W. Nichol in Whistle-Binkie (Series 2) (1846) 47–48:
The provost is comin', huzza! huzza! The bailies an' beddles, wi' hammers an' treddles, An' lingles, an' barrels, an' a', an' a'.
Rxb. 1833 Mrs Hall Sc. Borderer (1874) 31:
While she was yet speaking, Johnny Preston, the bedlar, took one of his stated stands nearly opposite the door. [Here the beadle acted as town-bellman.]

3. A grave-digger; very often the minister's man.Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. lv.:
Auld Elspith the bedral's widow — the like o' them's used wi' graves and ghaists.
Ork. 1854 D. Vedder Poems (1878) 59:
The Bedral, who houfs up the best in the Land, Aye cracks to the Gauger wi' bonnet in hand.
Ags. 1864 D. M. Ogilvy Poems (1873) 129:
There's a bedrel buried 'mang bedrel dead.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Trad. Tales II. 327:
There is a deep grave dug, and the bedral leans on his spade.

[The forms in dl and dr may have arisen from contamination with bedlar and bedrel, etc., bedridden. Bedrall, a church officer, occurs in O.Sc., also bedel, beddel, beedal, beddle, biddel, bethel, bathel. O.E. bydel, a herald, a messenger, from mutated ablaut stem of O.E. budon, pl., pa.t. of bēodan, to proclaim. O.Fr. bedel (Gmc. origin) gradually replaced O.E. bydel. Bedel(l) is still used in Oxford and Cambridge Universities to indicate a University official whose duties are mainly processional. See N.E.D. beadle, 3.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Beddal n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Apr 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: