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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

FIR, n. Sc. usages, mostly with special reference to fir wood from stumps dug out of peat-mosses for light or fuel (Bnff. 1715 in J. F. S. Gordon Chron. Keith (1880) 88, Crm. 1852 H. Miller Schools xiii.):

1. A fir stick used as a candle. See Cannle.Abd. 1813 W. Beattie Parings 31:
Little Pate sits i' the nook, An' but-a-house dare hardly look, But had, and snuff the fir.
Abd. 1877 W. Alexander Rural Life 179:
With a blazing “fir” in his hand, to give light for the operations about to commence on the floor below him.

2. Combs.: †(1) fir-candle, = 1. (Abd. 1825 Jam.; Bnff.2 1942); (2) fir cleaver, a small hatchet for splitting fir for candles. See quot. under (7); †(3) fir-crap, a fir-cone (n.Sc. 1808 Jam., s.v. crap); (4) fir-feckit, see Fecket; †(5) fir-futtle, a large broad-bladed knife used for splitting candle-fir (Abd. 1825 Jam.). See Futtle; (6) fir-gown, a coffin (Sc. 1911 S.D.D.);  (7) fir-gullie, -y, = (5); (8) fir-jacket, a coffin. Cf. (4); (9) fir-stock, the block of fir from which fir candles were made (Bnff.2 1942); (10) fir-tap, a fir-cone (Lnk. 1860; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Ayr.4 1928; Fif. 1951); (11) fir tether, a kind of rope made from strips of moss fir plaited together; (12) firwud, a fir wood. Also firwood for fuel or light. Gen.Sc.; (13) fir-yarra, the yarrow or milfoil (Abd. 1921 T.S.D.C.), but poss. mare's tail or corn-spurrey is intended; (14) fir-yowe (Kcb. 1825 Jam.; ne.Sc., Ags. 1951), -ewe (Abd. 1867 Mrs Allardyce Goodwife 9), a fir-cone. Dim. -yowie (ne.Sc. 1951). See Yowe.(1) ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 20:
Light was given either by pieces of bog-fir laid on the fire, or by fir-can'les — that is, thin splinters of bog-fir, from one to two and a half or three feet long, fixed in a sort of candlestick, called the peer-man.
Sc. 1935 I. Bennett Fishermen ix.:
The ceremony of the fir candle brought prosperity and luck to the young couple.
(7) Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xl.:
Samie 'imsel' cuttit feckly, bit aifter bit, on a muckle ashet, wi's fir gullie.
Abd. 1910 Abd. Jnl. N. & Q. III. 98:
The production of fire by artificial means being established, various materials were used for maintaining the light. Among the first was the fir candle. . . . The fir cleaver, fir gully, peer-man, and the kilchin were the articles used for preparing and burning the fir.
Abd. 1923 J. R. Imray Village Roupie 10:
A roosty fir gullie — 'twas jimp o' a han'le.
(8)Sc. 1891 R.Ford Thistledown 308:
I hae nae notion o' puttin' on a fir-jacket as lang as I can help it.
(9) Abd. 1906 Banffshire Jnl. (26 June):
Wha in the aumrie stowed their trock And keepit aye a fine fir stock.
(10) Sc. 1736 Mrs McLintock Receipts 44:
Lay them close to an earthern Pot, with a little Dill and Fir-tops.
Sc. 1773 Dmf. Weekly Mag. (23 March):
On Saturday last, about seven o'clock at night, a kiln at Camlachie, where fir-tops were a-drying, unluckily took fire.
Rxb. 1802 J. Leyden in Scott Minstrelsy II. 345:
The fir-tops fall by Branxholm wall.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 237:
When 'mang the whins an' hedges We marched in whistlin' raws, An' bickered ither wi' fir-taps.
Ayr. 1913 J. Service Memorables 18:
When the big fir-tap and green mossy nests adorned the leafy June.
Fif. 1946 J. C. Forgan Maistly 'Muchty 10:
I'd row in the heather and gether fir taps, Gin I were a laddie again.
(11) Abd. 1794 J. Anderson Peat Moss 31:
These ropes of a proper length are sold ready made, under the name of fir tethers.
(12) Sc. 1899 W. Andrews Church Life 194:
A lighted slip of fir-wood was whirled three times round the bed [of a new-born child], with the superstitious idea of averting evil influences.
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowl. Hills 23:
Oh, world o' firwuds, fields, an' great hill-faces! My hairt is yours, an' it evermair will be.
(14) Abd. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (30 Jan.):
I wonder how many picture frames there are still in the vicinity, composed in the main of “fir yowes” from the “widdy” in front of Willie Smith's door.

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"Fir n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 4 Mar 2024 <>



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