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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1968 (SND Vol. VII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

PUMPHAL, n., v. Also pumphel(l), -phil(l), -phile, pumphle, pumfle; erron. pomptul (Mry. 1913 Kenilworth Mag. II. 55).

I. n. 1. An enclosure or pen for livestock, gen. square in shape and built of earth, stone or wood (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 135; ne.Sc. 1967).Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxv.:
The tod, or a set o' cairds rinkin aboot the pumphel.
Abd. 1889 Sc. N. & Q. (Ser. 1) III. 126:
Pum faul', or pumphle, meant a little faul' where cattle were penned at night. Many fields where they once were are still called the Auld Pumphle.
Bwk. 1906 J. Christie Drachlaw Revisited 11:
Near where the rustic pumphil stood.
Abd. 1929 J. Alexander Mains & Hilly 19:
Aw min' fin we ees't to hae pumphels in the fiedles for the nowte.
Abd. 1955 W. P. Milne Eppie Elrick ii.:
They [sheep] war a' richt . . . i the lythe o' the wa's o' the pumfle.

2. A type of church pew, now almost obs., in the form of a square enclosure with a seat or bench round the inside, entered by a door or gate and with a small table in the centre for books (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff.; ne.Sc. 1967). Also attrib. in combs. pumphal-pew, — seat, etc.Bnff. 1803 W. Cramond Ch. Grange (1898) 127:
The seats in the patron's pumphal set for £1 2s. 6d.
Bnff. 1880 J. F. S. Gordon Chron. Keith 225:
“The Kirk” had an earthen floor, filled with “Pumphels,” — with no “Laft”.
Abd. 1895 J. Davidson Old Abdsh. Ministers 76:
The passage ran across the front of the precentor's desk, and beyond it were the square enclosed pews which the country people called pumphals.
Sc. 1913 J. Allardyce Bygone Days 92:
One of the pumphals was occupied by the minister's family, other two by two aristocratic families in the parish, while the fourth was used as a choir seat.
Bnff. 1933 M. Symon Deveron Days 38:
An' the Bellman 'll be dichtin' mair than sneeshan draps fae's nose, As the pumphels fill on Sunday.
Abd. 1944 Huntly Express (28 April) 4:
I was so small I couldna see owre the high sides of the pumphil pew.

II. v. To shut up in a pumphal or pen (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 135).ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 70:
In summer the cattle were early at grass, that they might be either housed or pumphaled before the hour of service.
Bnff.3 1934:
Gang and “pumphel-in” the stirks, loon.

[Altered form of pund fald, pinfald, see Pund, Poind, an animal enclosure. O.Sc. has pumfell, = 2., 1649.]

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"Pumphal n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jul 2024 <>



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