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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SHEEL, v., n. Also sheal(l), sheil(l), shiel; shil(l), schill, shull. [ʃil; em.Sc. (b) ʃɪl]

I. v. 1. To shell (peas, grain or flax seeds, etc.), to take off or out of the husk or pod (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Fif., Lth. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 265; Uls. 1929, shill; Sh., ne.Sc., Ags., Fif., Lnk. 1970). Vbl.n. sheelin(g). Phr. like a mill sheelin, at a quick steady pace, with a great delivery, volubly, esp. said of one telling lies (Abd. 1950). Comb. shiel-stone, a hand-quern.Sc. 1702 Household Bk. Lady G. Baillie (S.H.S.) 66:
For shild pies . . . 2 peck out of 5.
Mry. 1712 W. Cramond Grant Ct. Bk. (1897) 21:
The acts anent grinding and shealling.
Slg. 1741 Burgh Rec. Slg. (1889) 261:
Four shilling Scots out of each boll of shilled barley and grotts.
Abd. 1750 Abd. Estate (S.C.) 170:
To 4 spinners 2/3 day shieling and cuffing at bolls . . . 8s. 0d.
Lnk. 1757 Session Papers, Petition Sir A. Denham (17 June) 6:
He might have brought his Lint-bolls to he sheeled at the Pursuer's Corn-mill, if he did not chuse to sheel them in the ordinary Manner by a Flail.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 44:
The whole is again returned to the mill, with the stone approaching a little nearer, by which the smaller grains are sheeled, or shelled.
Sc. 1816 Scott Black Dwarf xvii.:
We took their swords and pistols as easily as ye would shiel peacods.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallow. Encl. 345:
When we see a person vomiting, from the effects of drinking spirits, we say he was “sendin' the drink frae him like a mill-shilling.”
Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. i.:
The words bolt-bolting out, before the Fifteen on the bench, like sheeled pease frae a mill happer.
Ags. 1860 A. Whamond James Tacket xii.:
Betsy scrapin' the taties, an' Johnny sheelin' the peas.
Sc. 1862 A. Hislop Proverbs 101:
He would need to he twice sheeled and ance grund that deals wi' you.
Ayr. 1887 J. Service Dr Duguid 13:
Sandy lee'd like a mill-shillin'.
Bwk. 1908 A. Thomson Coldingham 287:
In far off times the hand “shiel-stone” did the work.
Ork. 1912 J. Omond Ork. 80 Years Ago 23:
Oatmeal could not be properly ground in a quern, as, to make good meal, the oats must he full shilled first, and shilling could not be properly managed on a quern. To shill oats, the two stones should always, all round, be running about a quarter of an inch apart.

Hence sheelin(g), shillin(g), shillean, erron. skilling (Inv. 1769 I. F. Grant Old Highl. Farm (1924) 164–5), freq. in pl.: the kernel of the grain after the husk has been removed by milling (Sc. 1806 Jam.; I.Sc., Cai., ne.Sc., Wgt. 1970); now occas. also, though less correctly, the husks removed in the process, the bran (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; Uls. 1929; Per., Fif. 1970).Ags. 1718 R. Finlayson Arbroath Documents (1923) 26:
Deliver to John Petry half a boll of multured shiling.
Fif. 1733 E. Henderson Dunfermline (1879) 427:
The great loss he sustains for ‘want of wind' to dight his shealing.
Ork. 1769 P. Fea MS. Diary (19 Jan.):
3 Cassies of Shilling that was dried at Backaskeel.
Peb. 1802 C. Findlater Agric. Peb. 44:
The husks, or shilling seeds, are again separated by the fanners, when the shilling, or naked kernels, are committed to the mill, with the stones set so near as to grind them into meal.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 254:
The corn-mills were often Stopped altogether for lack of wind to fan the shieling, or to separate the sids, or shells, from the grits or kernels of the oats.
Lnk. 1853 W. Watson Poems 15:
Ye'll hae mair sheillin to be sure Frae corn that's hummelt on the floor.
s.Sc. 1866 W. Henderson Folk-Lore 214:
When sheelin or shelled oats are spread out to dry.
Fif. 1899 J. Allan Flutorum 37:
The sheelin's o' the groat were leep't, Made sowen kale for weeks.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 3:
His oxter pooch managed wi' shillans to full A treat to tak' hame till his doos.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminiscences 102:
The cottager had perforce to be contented with potato or nettle broth thickened with “shillans.”

Combs.: (1) shilling broth, broth made from husked harley (Cai. 1929 F. M. McNeill Sc. Kitchen 86); (2) sheelin-happer, a happer or canvas container for holding sheelin; (3) sheelin-hill, shilling-, -hillag (Cai.), a knoll or piece of rising ground on which husked grain could be winnowed by the wind. Also in form shiel-hill. Hist. and surviving in place-names; (4) shealing-law, id.: (5) sheilin' lowe, a fire made of the husks of corn, a common fuel for drying corn in a mill-kiln. See Seed; (6) sheeling-mill, a mill for husking corn; (7) shiling moulter, the Multure or miller's proportion of sheelin; (8) sheelin riddle, a sieve or riddle for sifting sheelin; (9) sheelin seeds, the husks removed from the grain in the first process of milling (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Arg. 1882 Arg. Herald (3 June), shillean; Cai. 1939). See Seed; (10) sheelin-stane, a mill-stone, specif. the one set to remove the husks in the first operation (Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.; Lth. 1970).(2) Ags. 1882 Brechin Advert. (26 Sept.) 3:
It's toom'd into the sheelin'-happer.
(3) Sc. 1717 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 619:
The ground betwixt the aqueduct and the course of the milne burn being very little bounds, no more than what is absolutely necessar for a shilling hill.
Dmf. 1730 Session Papers, Petition Sir W. Douglas (16 June) 2:
She has seen Kelhead's Tenants winnow their Sheeling upon a Peice of Ground, before the Mill-door, which was called by some, the Sheeling-hill.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xxix.:
She will vanish as the chaff disappears from the shieling-hill, when the west wind blows.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 254:
To secure wind as much as possible, every mill had its shiel-hill, or small eminence, in its vicinity, open to all the winds.
Rnf. 1880 W. Grossart Shotts 216:
Grain was taken to the hill and riddled to free it from the husk or sheeling, hence the place was called the “sheeling” or “shilling hill”.
Bnff. 1927 Banffshire Jnl. (29 March) 7:
God had always sent wind to their “shilling hills”.
(4) Sc. c.1700 H. G. Graham Social Life (1928) 202:
The fanners introduced in 1710 from Holland . . . superseded the hand-riddle on the winnowing hill or ‘shealing law'.
(5) Ags. 1846 G. Macfarlane Rhymes 82:
My trusty kiln, where mony a bow I've dried aboon the sheilin' lowe.
(6) Gsw. 1790 Session Papers, Petition W. Robertson (17 June) 8:
A boulting mill, with a sheeling mill.
(7) Ags. 1734 Arbroath T. C. Minutes MS. (30 Sept.):
Apoynts the Touns oat shiling moulter to he sold at sixteen merks the boll.
(8) Abd. 1736 A. Watt Hist. Kintore (1865) 98:
Every tacksman of the mills be ordained to have a shullen [sic] riddle, and that he see the dust and refuse sufficiently separated from the schillin.
(9) Fif. 1701 County Folk-Lore (Simpkins) VII. 101:
Immediately after she went out the meale changed its colour and cam down red at which the miller caused grind some sheeling-seeds they came down red also.
Sc. 1757 R. Maxwell Practical Husbandman 174:
They [potatoes] may be kept on a loft or Deal-floor, mixed with sheeling seeds.
Abd. 1764 W. M. Findlay Oats (1956) 171:
Drying corn on the kiln by burning shilling sides instead of peats.
Peb. 1815 A. Pennecuik Tweeddale 86:
The husks, or shilling seeds, are again separated by the fanners.
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes 163:
A cushion, stuff't wi' sheelin' seeds.
Abd. 1912 G. Greig Mains's Wooin' 7:
Ye'll he on for some young glaiket chiel, wi' a heed as teem's shillin' sids.
(10) w.Lth. 1752 Caled. Mercury (16 March):
The Wind-Mill at Bridgeness . . . being furnished with two exceeding good Sheeling Stones.
Ags. 1882 Brechin Advert. (26 Sept.) 3:
It's ca'd throwe the sheelin' stanes.

2. To supply with grain husks, as fuel for a mill-kiln (Cai. 1970).Rxb. 1729 J. Wilson Ann. Hawick (1850) 138:
The council appoint every one to pay for burning and shealing every kill 4 shillings Scots.

3. To eat the heart or centre out of (a turnip or the like) (Sh. 1970). Phs. due to confusion with Eng. shell, id.Sh. 1958 New Shetlander No. 46. 9:
Wir neeps are shilled a bit oot o every ane.

4. To cut (a mussel) from its shell (Sh., n.Sc., Fif., Bwk. 1970). Hence sheelblade, sheal-, shil-, a knife for scooping out mussels for bait (Mry. 1914 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 24; ne.Sc., Fif. 1970). The form shillet in 1837 quot. appears to be a mistake or misprint; sheelin-co(u)g, a dish for holding shelled mussels for bait.Ags. 1819 G. Beattie Poems (1882) 240:
She mussels sheel'd, and wan her bread.
Sc. 1837 Wilson's Tales of the Borders III. 82:
I might as weel shave mysel wi' a mussel shillet.
ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 129:
It is usual, at least among the well-to-do fishermen, for the bride to bring to her new home a chest of drawers, all the hardware, cogs, tubs, and a sheelin coug.
Bwk. 1906 D. McIver Old-Time Fishing Town 13:
The work of sheelin th' mussels, i.e. removing the body of the mussels and baiting the hooks of the fishing line.
Bwk. 1917 Kelso Chronicle (1 June) 3:
The husband “beats the wants” (replaces lost hooks) and the mother “shiels the bait”.
Mry. 1931 J. Geddie Characters 165:
The shealblades were used in the fishing towns for opening the mussel bait used in catching white fish.
Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 34:
Ilka een in the but an' ben Had to redd or bait or sheel.

5. To “rook” (a person), win (staked money, marbles, etc.) from (ne.Sc., Dmf. 1970).Lnk. 1877 W. Watson Poems Dedicat.:
Forby, it's shill't my pouches bare.

6. To “shell” out money (Sc. 1825 Jam.; n.Sc. 1970).Ags. 1892 Brechin Advert. (15 Nov.) 3:
Ye wad hae to sheel oot a saxpence.
Sh. 1930 Manson's Almanac 195:
Ertie caaled fir anidder twa glesses, shullan' oot a gjoppin 'o siller.

7. To throw out or eject, in gen., to “dish out”, to scatter, fling right and left (ne.Sc. 1970).Abd. 1961 P. Buchan Mount Pleasant 20:
The biggest lees ye ivver heard they stood an' shieled them oot.

II. n. The act of husking corn; the act of turning a thing out of its container, a scattering or throwing about (ne.Sc. 1970), see I. 7.; fig. dismissal, the sack (Abd. 1970). Also shiel-up, a “turn-up.”Abd. 1956 J. Murray Rural Rhymes 66:
The next victim was postie Jim . . . Baith his bike an' his mails got a sheil.
Abd. 1962 Abd. Ev. Express (19 July):
The Government “shiel-up” has been a bit more drastic than is customary.

[O.Sc. schele. to husk, 1473, schilling, c.1500, Mid.Eng. schylle. Of uncertain etym., related to shale, shell.]

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"Sheel v., n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Jun 2024 <>



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