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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.

COAL, Coll, Kol, Coall, n. Meanings not found in Mod.Eng. See also Quyle. [kol Sc.; kɔl I.Sc.]

1. “A small piece of partly burnt, glowing peat on the hearth” (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), kol); “a burning piece of fuel, a brand” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl.); “a red-hot cinder” (Cai.7, Abd.2 1936; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); pl.: “embers” (Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 150; Cai.3 1931).Sh. 1900 Shet. News (5 May):
Her face lep as red as a coll efter shü wis spok'n aboot Tamy.
Ork.1 1930:
Roast the sillicks i' the coals.
Mry.1 1914:
Dinna cry oot til there's a coal upo yer taes.
Lnk.3 1936:
I have often heard my grandmother say: “Kittle the coals an' gar the peat lauch.”

2. In phr. black coal, “coal slightly burned by igneous rock” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 10; Fif. 1943 (per Edb.6); a fine sort of cannel coal or jet used by carpenters and masons to mark on wood and stone (Sc. 1893 N.E.D.).

3. In pl.: the coal-pits (Gsw.2 1936); also found in Cum. dial. (E.D.D.). Also in phr. to gang to the coals, an expression referring to the “practice of farm servants going to the bing at pit-head for cartloads of coal” (e.Lth. c.1890 A. M. Jamieson in Scotsman (2 Nov. 1942)).Hdg. 1745 Johnnie Cope i. in Jacobite Relics (ed. Hogg 1821) II. 113:
If ye were wauking, I wad wait To gang to the coals i' the morning.

4. Phrases: (1) to bring out o'er the coals, to tak ower the coals, to scold, call (someone) to account (Bnff.2 1936, to bring — ); cf. Eng. to haul or call over the coals; †(2) to get a coal on one's foot, to set one's foot on a coal, “to go to lodge in a house where one's sleep is disturbed by a childbirth” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.). Also given in Jam.2 (1825) for Rxb.(1) Abd. c.1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1800) ii.:
But time that tries such proticks past, Brought me out o'er the coals fu' fast.
Abd.9 1936:
He was teen ower the coals for checkin' the maister.

5. Combs.: (1) coal-airn, see quot. and Airn; (2) †coal and can'le, an annual proclamation made in Haddington about fire precautions (see quot.); (3) †coal-bearer, a worker, freq. a woman or child who carried coal on the back from the workings to the surface. See Bearer; (4) coal-bing, a slag-heap from a coal-mine; (5) coal-coom, coal dust (Bnff.2, Lnl.1, Lnk.3 1936; Ayr. 1990s); cf. (9) below; (6) coal fauld, an enclosure for storing coal (Edb.6 1943, obsol.); coal fold is obs. in Eng. See also Fauld, n.2, 6. (2); (7) coal gabbert, see Gabbart; (8) †coal grieve, an overseer at a coal-mine. See also Grieve, n., 2; (9) coal-gum, coal dust (Slg.3 1936); “small-coal, dross, riddlings, as used for furnaces, etc.” (Sc. 1887 Jam.6); cf. (5); (10) coal-heid, given as the tree-pipit, Anthus trivialis (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.), but this is doubtful. For more probable identifications see Coal-hood. Also coaly head, the blackcap, the reed bunting, the cole-tit (Slg. 1867 Zoologist (Ser. 2) II. 890); †(11) coal-heugh, a coal-pit; (12) coal-hill, “ground occupied at a pit head or mine-mouth for colliery purposes” (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Sc. Mining Terms 19; Slg.3 1936; Edb.6 1943, obs.); †(13) coal-leaf, “a leaf of sooty matter shed off burning coal” (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B., obs.); (14) coal-lie, a siding in a coal mine. Also attrib.; (15) coal-neuk, a recess for keeping coal; a coal-cellar (Bnff.2 1936); (16) coal-peats, peats almost as hard and heavy as coal; (17) coal-pock, a coal-sack (Ork., Ags. 1975); (18) coal-putter, see Putt, v., 1. (2) (em.Sc. 1842 Children in Mines Report (2) 18); (19) coal-ree, coal rea, a store from which coal is sold (Bnff.2, Lnl.1, Arg.1 1936); Edb.6 1943 says obsol.; (20) coal-shank, a shaft in a coal-mine. See Shank; (21) †coal-sheirs, a pair of tongs. See Shear; (22) †coal-silver, a small fee laid on school-children for the payment of heating in the school room. See Siller; (23) coal-stalk, a tree-like pattern in stone embedded in a coal-seam created by the percolation of water during its formation (see quots.); (24) coal-stealer, in phr. †coal-stealer rake, "a thief, a vagabond, or one who rakes during night for the purpose of depredation" (Rxb. 1825 Jam.). Coal-stealing was a common offence in the late 17th c. in Edinburgh; †(25) coaltown, colton, “the eighteen century equivalent of a ‘miners' raw' — houses built near a pit solely for the miners” (Edb.6 1943, obs.). The word survives in placenames as Coaltown of Balgonie in Fife; (26) coal-wheechar, a coal vendor. For other combs., see individual entries.(1) Lnk. 1889 Northern N. & Q. III. 28:
In the low country, especially in and around Lanarkshire, cannel coal was used to give light long before gas made its appearance, and it was on account of its being so used instead of candles that it got the name of cannel coal. It was first broken into splinters and then laid on an iron basket attached to the front of the grate, so that it might be sufficiently near the ordinary coal to be kept blazing. The bracket was called the "coal airn," and the coal burned on it was called the "licht coal."
(2) Hdg. 1827 R. Chambers Picture Scot. II. 128:
The last great conflagration of Haddington was accidental, and happened about two hundred years ago. . . . In commemoration of the incident . . . a civic officer to this day, makes a tour through the town, on every anniversary of the day, and, ringing a bell, addresses a long quaint harangue to the nourices and other females of the town. This strange ceremony gets the stranger name of "Coal and Can'le."
(3) e.Lth. 1728 R. Chambers Picture Scot. (1834) II. 106:
A female coal-bearer of the name of Jeffrey.
e.Lth. 1771 Weekly Mag. (7 Feb) 192:
Jean Ewart, late coal-bearer in Tranent.
(4) Sc. 1997 Herald (20 Jun) 25:
On a dank, misty day in the early Middle Ages, it was prophesied ... that King Angus would be reincarnated as a holy child called Ronald, found sobbing in a coal bing in Cowdenbeath.
m.Sc. 1983 Howard Purdie in Joy Hendry Chapman 37 60:
Byrne scatters the Glesca dross like an urchin playing hookie on a coal-bing.
(5) Rxb.(D) 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes an Knowes 12:
No a leevin sowl . . . did A sei . . ., bar yeh haaflang chaap as black as Eppie Suittie (wui a face aa coal-coom).
(6) Fif. 1704 D. Webster Witchcraft (1820) 137:
The next time she saw the devil was about half a year ago, as she went to Culross, she saw him at the west end of the coal-fold.
Edb.1 1929:
Not far away too was the "coal fauld," where coal at one time lay ere being shipped.
(8) em.Sc. 1703-48 Edb. Marriage Reg. (S.R.S.) 81, 558:
Butter, Henry, coal grieve in Dunfermline. Veitch, John, late coal grieve at Hilhead.
(9) Ayr. 1868 J. K. Hunter Artist's Life x.:
His legs bare to the knees, his breast open, his touzie head and the coal-gum nae mair than aff his face.
Ayr. 1990 Glasgow Herald 30 Jun :
Up to the early fifties there was serious pollution, most of it coming from the upper reaches which passed through Ayrshire's coalfields. "Coal gum" was spread right down the river sometimes to a depth of 10 inches.
(11) Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Hist. Fife and Kinross 126:
The Damps of these Coal-heughs are sulphureous and narcotick.
Dmf. 1891 J. Brown Hist. of Sanquhar 344:
The opportunity was taken by farmers to make repeated journeys to the “coal-heugh,” and lay in a stock of fuel.
(12) Sc. 1700 Fountainhall Decisions II. 103:
So many chalders presently lying on the coal-hill.
Sc. 1723 George Lockhart Letters SHS (1989) 185:
If the highways be not repaired you and I need expect few carts next winter at our coall hills.
Clc. 1808 R. Bald Sc. Coal-Trade 30:
The price of coals upon the coalhills round Edinburgh, is 11s. 8d. per ton.
(14) Edb. 1938 Fred Urquhart Time Will Knit (1988) 58:
"...and one of his most mischievous pranks was the day he hid behind the coal-lie dyke and threw stones at Mr. Bennett."
(15) Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) xxv.:
It was a wonderful business . . . to find Mounseer from Paris in his coal-neuk.
(16) Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. Ork. Par. (1922) 8:
Along the sidewall two flagstones were set up to form a “paetie-neuk,” where the day's supply of yarpha [surface peat] and good “coal-peats” was stored.
(17) Slk. 1892 W. M. Adamson Betty Blether 46:
Three dizen touls lyin' scattered through the hoose as black as coalpocks.
(19) Gsw. 1991 John Burrowes Mother Glasgow 362:
He used to make and sell coal briquettes. Collected the dust from the big coal rea in the Gorbals.
Lnk. c.1886 Jeems Kaye (reprinted from The Bailie 1903) 16:
I wrote a notice and pasted it up on the door o' the coal-ree.
Ayr. 1710 Ayr. Arch. & Nat. Hist. Soc. II. 203:
The inhabitants doe incline to build a coal-ree . . . for preserving coalls in order to transport the same to Ireland.
Ayr. 1868 J. K. Hunter Artist's Life xi.:
The auld coach-house was turned into a coal-ree.
(20) Rnf. 1813 G. MacIndoe Wandering Muse 136:
An auld coal-shank headlang he drave Poor Cousin Jock!
(21) Abd. 1719 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. VIII. 25:
For a pair of cool sheirs, 4 shil.
(22) Rnf. 1880 W. Grossart Shotts 197:
Children carrying a peat to school thus saving payment of coal silver.
(23) Slg., Lnk. 1793 D. Ure Rutherglen 302:
The most common impression of what is supposed to be the Pine. . . . Not unfrequently they penetrate the thickness of the rock, and spread themselves alongst the upper surface of a stratum of coal. [They] are, in many places, not improperly known by the name of Coal-Stalk. This term, however, is, in Campsie, Baldernock, and some other places, ascribed to a recent vegetable root, that penetrates a considerable way in the earth; and, in some few instances, even through the crevices of the free-stone itself.
Slg. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VIII. 142:
The water which flows through this romantic glen, possesses the remarkable quality of forming curious vegetable impressions upon the surface of freestone pillars, vulgarly called coal-stalks, rising from the seam of coal like trees from the surface of the earth.
(26) Edb. 1881 (6th ed.) J. Smith Habbie and Madge 88:
A heavy thud on the roof, caused by a coal-wheehar dischargin' a bagfu' o' black jewellery into the bunker o' the hoose aboon, startles yin o' the twins.

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"Coal n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 30 Jun 2022 <>



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