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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HERRIE, v., n. Also her(r)y, ha(i)r(r)ie, hairry. Sc. forms of Eng. harry. [′hɛre, ′here]

I. v. 1. tr. and intr. As in Eng., to rob, plunder, pillage. Specif. Sc. usages: (1) to carry off in a marauding raid (Bnff., Abd., Edb., Ayr. 2000s). Now gen. hist. Also vbl.n.Sc. 1808 Scott Marmion i. xix.:
Harried the wives of Greenlaw's goods.
Sc. 1830 Galt Lawrie Todd vi. viii.:
Herrying the webs and yarn of the country wives.
wm.Sc. 1985 Liz Lochhead Tartuffe 8:
... yon yin weel-kens whit side his breid is buttered
And hoo to herry money oot o' maister by a hunner ploys
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 90:
Thir burdlife keelies, impident an gash,
awroads thay flee aboot the kintraside;
lik reivers on a herryin, doun thay glide, ...

(2) To rob birds' nests of eggs or young, bee-hives, etc. Gen.(exc. I.)Sc. Also used fig.Bnff. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 419:
There is a well attested instance of 160 pairs being taken from the pigeon-house of Nether Buckie, at one harrying.
Sc. 1802 Scott Minstrelsy I. 130:
We gang to herry a corbie's nest, That wons not far frae Woodhouselee.
Kcb. 1814 W. Nicholson Poems 19:
'Twas there he herry't pleasure's nest, An' coup'd his cap up wi' the best.
Ayr. 1822 Galt Sir A. Wylie ii.:
He seldom strung an egg of his own herrying.
Abd. 1841 J. Imlah Poems 2:
Where reevin' youth oft search'd of yore To herry the hidden hinney store.
Edb. 1851 A. Maclagan Sketches 237:
Sic loupin' then o'er auld mile-stanes, Sic harryin' o' bikes.
Arg. 1901 N. Munro Doom Castle vi.:
Now that I'm a rooked bird and Doom a herried nest, they never look the road I'm on.
Rxb. 1904 W. Laidlaw Poetry and Prose (1908) 69:
Oh, dinna harrie 't o' its eggs, Ye cruel, thoughtless bairns!
Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 74:
Sune Scotland's wealth will be like the bees doon pittin', A herried kame.
m.Sc. 1947 Scots Mag. (April) 14:
We clamb trees and herried birds' nests thegither.
Lnk. 1995 Des Dillon Me & ma Gal 69:
You could call it herryin if you pulled the nest to bits but it really means if the birds don't go back to the nest cause of you.

Hence comb. herry-hawk, plunderer, robber (Slk. 1957), specif. of one who takes everything, leaving no eggs, etc. (w.Lth. 1975). Cf. Hack, v. 5.Lnk. 1923 G. Rae 'Mang Lowland Hills 50:
His son — whae wadna' work ava, Taks honey, beeboard, skep ana, The senseless, shameless herry-hawk.

(3) In fishing: to denude a stretch of water of fish, to work a herry-net.Edb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 I. 404:
Gala water still affords trouts . . . notwithstanding the nefarious practice, so common of late, of “netting” or “harrying the water.”
Lth. 1927 R. S. Liddell Gilded Sign 142:
We've harried several pools.

Combs.: †(a) harry net, a net with a very small mesh used to plunder a stream of fish (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.); (b) herry-water, reduced form of herry-water-net below; applied fig. to a very selfish person (Cai. 1902 E.D.D., Cai. 1957); (c) herry-water-net = (a). [O.Sc. has hery watter, etc. = (a) from 1434, also used attrib. and fig. with -net in 17th c.].(a) Abd. 1795 Session Papers, Leslie v. Fraser (29 March 1805) 79:
Depones, That he does not know what a harry-net is, unless it be a net that is worked in a burn.
(c) Sc. 1704 Fountainhall Decisions II. 227:
Act 3. 1698 discharges pock-net fishing, with herry-water nets, and other engines marring salmon-fishing.
Sc. 1756 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 49:
All the pock, stop, and herry-water nets, which they should find people making use of in the Forth above the Pow of Alloa.

(4) In forestry: to thin out a plantation of trees too drastically (Ayr. 1955).

(5) In mining: to cut away coal from pillars left as supports (Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 35, harrie, herrie), to remove all coal from a working (Ayr. 1948). Also phr. to herrie stoops, id. (Edb.6 1944).Fif. 1837 Trans. Highl. Soc. 292:
In the course of “harrying” (or taking out all the pillars that support the roof), about forty square yards of the limestone was left without a prop.

2. (1) To ruin (persons) by extortion or oppression (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.); to impoverish (Ayr. 1811 W. Aiton Agric. Ayr. 692; ne.Sc., Dmf. 1957).Lnk. 1718 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 225:
Sorners that daily oppresses and herries the King's leidges.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 386:
You'll never harry your self with your own Hands. Spoken to niggardly People.
Per. 1753 A. Nicol Rural Muse 59:
As for my house, 'tis shame to see't, And I am almost herried wi't.
Ayr. 1787 Burns Address Beelzebub 37–38:
Yet while they're only poind and herriet, They'll keep their stubborn Highland spirit.
Sc. 1818 S. E. Ferrier Marriage II. xi.:
But ye're ane o' the fowk that'll ne'er harry yoursel wi' your presents.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales II. 335:
He's herrying me, he's herrying me, and I maun gang to the brimstone pit with no a penny in my pocket.
Lnk. 1865 J. Hamilton Poems and Sk. 46:
An' the bairns o' yer bairns that are yet to be born, Will be harry't wi' taxes, an' put to the horn.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 24:
Ye mith easy hairry yersel' an' the kirk be verra little the better o' ye.
Arg. 1992:
That's wan thing, Russell, you'll never get herried in this world - ye'll get Green-Peace protection.

(2) To reduce to a poor condition, as by harsh treatment, underfeeding, etc.; of land: to exhaust fertility (I.Sc., Dmf. 1957), as by removing the top soil.Sh. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 215:
The “harrying” of the hills is an essential element in the old system of cottar farming. . . . There is no district where the scathold has been more scalped than on the hills above the fishing villages of Conigsburgh.
Abd. 1879 W. Forsyth Writings (1882) 154:
An' I sanna say bit I quiest my e'e roon an' roon the beasties to see gin they really luikit sae herriet-like.

3. With out, aff: to dispossess, to drive out in a state of despoilment or destitution, to expel (from one's home or possessions) (Sc. 1755 Johnson Dict.; Abd., Ags. 1957). Also fig.Abd. a.1807 J. Skinner Amusements (1809) 106:
When ye bemoan'd the herryt mousie, Rinning as gin't had been frae pousie.
Sc. 1819 Scott L. Montrose iv.:
I wish I had never seen them between the een, for they're come to herry us out o' house and ha'.
Slk. 1822 Hogg Perils of Man I. 60:
We hae tholed a foray the night already, an' a double ane wad herrie us out o' house an' hauld.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 258:
They were bottomless leears and leeches, that herried him oot o' hoose and hame.
Per. 1896 I. Maclaren Kate Carnegie 217:
Ye drave me awa aince, an' noo ye wud harry me aff again.
Edb. 1915 T. W. Paterson Auld Saws 43:
An' a' the rest that breeds ill-will, An' bickerins in a thrang; An' herries oot o' human life The speerit for a sang.

4. In curling: to be barred from the tee by opponents' stones.Dmf. 1891 J. Brown Hist. Sanquhar 325:
The greater part of the Sanquhar curlers were “harried,” that is, could not reach the “tee.”

5. Phrs.: (1) herrying the peer man, a boys' game similar to “smuggle-the-gig” (Sc. 1911 S.D.D. Add.; Ork.1 1949). Cf. Geg, n.4; †(2) herry the pack, to empty the pockets, to deprive of wealth; †(3) harrie the sowie, see quot.(2) Sc. 1721 A. Pennecuik Helicon 81:
He had ance a bra Fortune; it's all gane to Wrack, (For London's a Place that herrys the Pack).
(3) Sc. 1847 Sc. Journal I. 94:
“Harrie the Sowie” is a game played by boys in Scotland, and is a sort of shinty, or as it is called in England “Hockie.” in Ireland “Commons.” There is, however, considerable difference. In the latter, a “hail,” or winning goal, is possessed by each party, which endeavours to drive the ball through its own hail, and prevent it reaching that of the opponents. But in the former there is but one, and the struggle consists in the contest of each party to obtain the honour of the hail, or driving the “sow,” which is generally a piece of bone, into the goal.

6. Derivs.: (1) herriement, harriement, (a) plundering, devastation (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (b) that which causes devastation, ruination (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Bnff. 1957); (2) herrier, herryer, a plunderer, a reiver, a rifler of birds' nests. Gen.Sc.(a) Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 210:
Kirk-spulyie, herriement, and raid, Gaed on mair fast than ever.
Lnk. 1835 W. Watt Poems (1860) 36:
It's no that licht to thole sic herryment; Gear's no sae easy won to gang sic gaets.
Sc.(E) 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxii. 10:
Till stouthrief lippen ye nane, an' o' herriment ne'er mak a bost.
(b) Ayr. 1787 Burns Brigs of Ayr 170–1:
Staumrel, corky-headed, graceless gentry, The herryment and ruin of the country.
Sc. 1827 C.J. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. ix.:
A perfect cess and harriement on a widow woman.
(2) Per. 1715 J. Monteath Dunblane Trad. (1835) 15:
In his youth he had repeatedly foiled parties of Highland harryers, who had descended from the hills during the “Michaelmas moons.”
Sc. 1830 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1856) III. 3:
When a laddie, I was an awfu' herrier! . . . Ilka spring, I used to hae half-a-dozen strings o' eggs.
Mry. 1865 J. Horne Poems 65:
For a slender-shankit, supple carl (The herrier o' your grousy warl'), Has got a gun and powder barrel.
Ayr. 1890 J. Service Notandums 51:
Quate, retired, and oot o' the herriers' ken.
Gall. 1957:
Shouted by children at another guilty of herrying: Herrier, herrier, wee bird's nest — Kill the gorlins, eat their flesh.
Lnk. 1995 Des Dillon Me & ma Gal 69:
Nobody liked herryers. I never wanted to pass this bush the rest of ma life an know that I herryied the nest ...

II. n. †1. A state of pillage, a plundered or looted condition.Sc. 1700 D. Warrand Culloden Papers (1923) I. 266:
We have been allarmid and ar still in a harie with thiving.

2. In comb. milk herrie, the falling off of a cow's milk, reputed to be caused by bewitchment (see quot.).Bnff. 1852 A. Harper Solitary Hours 71:
To prevent “Elfin-Shot,” “Milk Herrie,” “Bairn Stooth,” and all and sundry trespasses and depredations perpetrated by those mischievous gimmers the witches.

3. A schoolboy word for a scrimmage, a rough-and-tumble (Sc. 1910 Scotsman (9 Sept.)). Cf. herrying the peer man, q.v.Sc. 1910 Scotsman (13 Sept.):
The harry is a schoolboy name for a rough-spirited game of any kind.

4. A piece of extortion, a drain on one's resources (Abd. 1957). Cf. Herial, n., 2.

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"Herrie v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 18 Jul 2024 <>



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