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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1974 (SND Vol. IX). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

THIRL, v.2, n.2 Also thirell, thirle. [θɪrl]

I. v. 1. To lay under a certain obligation or restriction, specif. in Sc. Law: to bind the lands of an estate or their tenants by the terms of lease to have the grain produced on the lands ground at a certain mill, to astrict the grinding of corn (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Obs. except hist.; occas. also of smithy work. Ppl.adj. thirled.Sc. 1704 Essay in Defence of Stuff-Manufactories 14:
Those that would have them Thirled to him, or bring all their Multer to their Miln.
Sc. 1709 Compend of Securities 164:
I hereby, for me, my Heirs, etc. astrict and thirl all and haill my said Lands with the haill Corns and Grains that shall happen to grow thereupon to be grinded by me and my Foresaids, and our Tenants, Occupiers and Possessors of the said Lands, and others in Time coming, at the said Mill.
Sc. a.1722 Fountainhall Decisions (1759) I. 276:
The defender ought not to have built a mill upon the thirled lands.
Gsw. 1743 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 143:
The said John Muirhead and his successors and their tenants of the said lands are astricted and thirled to bring all malt to be brewn by them and their tenants to the touns milns in property or tenendry and pay multure as the burgesses of Glasgow do pay.
Sc. 1758 Caled. Mercury (9 Sept.):
Tenants are thirled to the Smithy, which with the Inn and Country Work, makes the Encouragement considerable.
Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute ii. ix. § 21:
Thirlage may be constituted by the proprietor thirling his tenants to his own mill.
Sc. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIV. 260, XIX. 77:
All the lands in this parish are thirled to certain mills, to the extent of the 16th part of the oats, the 11th part of the barley. . . . An experienced dryster, hired by the thirled farmers.
Ork. 1841 Trans. Highl. Soc. 132:
The tenantry are all thirled to these mills, at which the multure is very heavy.
Kcd. 1899 A. C. Cameron Fettercairn 156:
The tenants thirled to the mill turned out in a body.
Bnff. 1902 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 18:
A farmer thus bound to the mill, with its multures, knaveships, sequels, and goupens, was said to be thirled or bun sucken.
Bwk. 1905 R. Gibson Old Bwk. Town 220:
The feus of Greenlaw and some neighbouring farms were thirled to Greenlaw Mill.
wm.Sc. 1980 Anna Blair The Rowan on the Ridge 34:
John thirled as always to the mill was content to leave the rigs to others, and Will prepared to do whatever was Bryce's bidding.

Combs. and derivs.: (1) thirlage, †-ige, †-edge, n., (i) Sc. Law: an obligation imposed on tenants on an estate to use a particular mill for the grinding of their corn on payment of a duty, gen. in kind, to the miller and his assistants for their services (Sc. 1808 Jam.); (ii) the Multure or payment thus made; (iii) the lands or body of tenants astricted to a particular mill. Hence thirlage-man, a tenant in a thirlage; (2) thirling-mill, a mill to which an estate and its tenants were astricted.(1) (i) Sc. 1707 Records Conv. Burghs IV. 405:
Conforme to ane contract of thirlage.
Ags. 1730 Arbroath T.C. Rec. MS. (14 Sept.):
To look out the touns charters and act of thirlige of the millns.
Sc. 1799 Acts 39 Geo. III. c.55:
Proprietors of Lands thirled, or of Mills to which Lands are thirled, may apply to have the Thirlage commuted.
Bwk. 1802 Session Papers, Earl of Lauderdale v. Stewart (25 Feb.) Proof 1:
The thirlage dues taken at said mill were the one and twentieth part of shieling.
Sc. 1820 Scott Monastery xiii.:
I could speak to the thirlage of invecta et aillat too.
Lth. 1829 G. Robertson Recollections 453:
Nearly the whole [of the oats] is or was, till of late, subjected to thirlage, or bound to particular mills.
Ork. 1912 J. Omond 80 Years Ago 25:
‘Thirlage' meant that the farmer had to pay a proportion of the whole grain produced whether ground or not.
(ii) Edb. 1711 Burgh Rec. Edb. (1967) 211:
The said Good town of Edinburgh having the undoubted right to the Thirlage and Multurage of the milns in the Water of Leith.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Perth 396:
At every mill the present amount of the thirlage is by far more than an adequate value for the labour, to which it is supposed to be the price.
Sc. 1819 J. Greig Rep. Affairs Edb. 37:
Astricted multures payable by the brewers in lieu of thirlage . . . £177.9.2.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Red Axe xxxi.:
The smile of a shrewd miller casting up his thirlage upon the mill door when he sees the fields of his parish ripe to the harvest.
(iii) Mry. 1736 E. D. Dunbar Social Life (1865) 95:
I am not thirled to that miln, or have I any land within the thirlage.
Sc. 1760 Caled. Mercury (13 Dec.):
By reason of the commodiousness of the said mill, many outsuckners resort thither, besides the ordinary thirlage.
Rs. 1765 W. MacGill Old Ross-shire (1909) II. 111:
Roll of persons concerned in the thirledge for transporting materials for the milns.
Kcb. 1896 Crockett Grey Man xx.:
While the thirlage men waited for their grist.
(2) Edb. 1773 Fergusson Poems (S.T.S.) II. 140:
How big a birn maun lie on bassie's back, For meal and multure to the thirling mill.
Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 445:
When mills in the country were rare, . . . a few lairds subscribed to build and uphold a mill. All erected by such compactions are thirling mills.

2. To bind or oblige one to give his services or custom exclusively to one particular person (Sc. 1808 Jam.); to engage or hire as a servant (Bwk. 1972).Sc. 1808 Jam.:
I'll no thirl myself, or be thirled to any tradesman.
Sc. 1823 Scott Letters (Cent. Ed.) VII. 325:
Our direct patronage as Clerks of Session is much abridged and in some measure thirled to those who have been bred in our offices.
Knr. 1890 H. Haliburton In Scottish Fields 125:
The inhabitants were not, of course, ‘thirled' to any particular tailor, as they used to be to a district mill.
Kcb. 1898 Crockett Standard Bearer iv.:
I served forty years, as a thirled labourer serves for his meat.
Sc. 1899 H. G. Graham Social Life II. 265:
If the son or daughter of a collier or coal hewer once went to work he or she was ‘thirled' to it for life.
Abd. 1909 C. Murray Hamewith 25:
He thirled a cripple tailor an' took in a queyn to shue.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 16:
Jamie and his men were thirled to no master but they were neither brigands nor thieves.

3. To keep or take greedily to oneself, to monopolise, “hog.”Bnff.2 c.1920:
He thirlt a' thing till himsell.

4. Fig. To bind with ties of affection, sentiment, sense of duty or loyalty, force of habit, etc. Gen.Sc. Ppl.adj. thirled, of cattle: accustomed to stay in a particular place (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 273), cf. heftit s.v. Heft, v.3, 1; hidebound by an idea, unable to give up a belief or dogma. Comb. Heart-thirled.Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xliv.:
It's nae i' the naitur' o' man to gang on year aifter year onbeen a kin' o' thirled to the vera rigs themsel's.
Per. 1886 H. Haliburton Horace 93:
I've loved auld Scotland far owre lang Heart-thirled till her.
m.Lth. 1894 P. H. Hunter J. Inwick 78:
Ye've been thirled to them [Liberals] a gey while noo.
Gall. 1900 R. J. Muir Mystery Muncraig xxii.:
I am no way thirled to him.
Edb. 1916 T. W. Paterson Wyse-Sayin's xxiii. 5:
Wad ye thirl yer very hairt, man, To what, eftir a', canna be lippen't?
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood vii.:
Were they so thirled to their evil-doing?
m.Sc. 1928 O. Douglas Ann and her Mother ii.:
Some women are so casual with their children, they don't thirl them to themselves.
Sc. 1970 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 359:
Another race quite like the Scots, another nation so continually in a ferment, so consistently divided against itself, yet so thirled to, and concerned for, its historical if not its actual and political integrity.
ne.Sc. 1981 Ken Morrice For All I Know 28:
But he, a many-lettered academic, long thirled to syntax and linguistics, ...
m.Sc. 1988 William Neill Making Tracks 69:
Yince ye were thirlit tae the common fowk;
nane wes less puddock-swalt in the haill toun,
but happit nou in brawer claes ye snowk
an strunt aboot the bit, tae auld freens blinn.
A wedder wore whit ye hae roun yir dowp,
an still yir cleedin hauds siclike athin.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman (21 Feb) 11:
Though a native Gaelic speaker and thirled to the Highland traditions of the Free Church, he was sufficiently tolerant of modern trends frequently to incur the wrath on several occasions of colleagues in the West Highlands.
Sc. 1989 Scotsman (18 Nov) 10:
And that is a cause to which Nigel Tranter is thirled.
Gsw. 2000 Herald (9 Sep) 16:
The views are unashamedly from the right - David Marquard, with his plea for social democracy, seems to be keeping odd company. The range is from academics describing, for example, Dewey's attitudes to education or Professor Haldane's careful analysis of the arguments against reproductive human cloning right through to polemical campaigners thirled to "back to basics" like Melanie Phillips and David Alton.
em.Sc. 2000 James Robertson The Fanatic 141:
And for more than five years Mitchel evades capture. Somebody, somewhere, has talked, and the name of James Mitchel, the Pentland rebel, is attached to the crime. Where does he go in these years? To Holland, some say. Others say, to Ireland, England, France. God has laid him by and does not call upon him. But still he is thirled to James Sharp by that frozen moment in the coach.

5. To bind as with an oath or promise.Edb. 1916 J. Fergus The Sodger 13:
When they bobb'd to a' the promises that they were thirl'd to keep.
Abd. 1920 C. Murray Country Places 30:
Till life be by we've thirled to gang — Leebie an' me wi' Love between.

II. n. 1. Sc. Law: (1) the obligation laid on certain lands and their tenants to have their grain produce ground at a particular mill after payment of a fixed duty or percentage. Obs. exc. hist.Slg. 1731 Slg. Burgh Rec. (1889) 213:
Notwithstanding by the act of thirle the whole inhabitants are undoubtedly thirled and astricted to the touns milns.
Slg. 1738 Trans. Slg. Nat. Hist. Soc. (1927) 47:
The twining mill put up to public roup and fell in James Davie's hand. He took the mill in the same condition she was in, and he was to furnish a house for her, to uphold and maintain her the whole space foresaid, without any kind of thirell.
Sc. 1821 Scott Pirate xi.:
Ilka body grinds their ain nievefu' of meal in this country, without plaguing themsells about baron's mills, and thirls, and sucken.
Fif. 1832 Fife Herald (15 March):
Being beyond the royalty, a purchaser is relieved from thirle and the heavy incorporation fees.

Hence combs.: thirl duty, the payment, gen. in kind, exacted from those who were legally bound to use a certain mill; thirl multure, -mouter, id. (Ags. 1722 Private MS.).Bwk. 1758 Session Papers, Lumisdaine v. Fiar (5 Jan.) 14:
Paid the Thirle Duties therefore, being a Dish-ful of Shealling, heaped, and a Dish-ful of Meal straiked for every Firlot of Shealling.
Clc. 1882 J. Walker Poems 122:
The man o' dust an' thirl-mouter.

(2) the lands subject to the obligations of thirlage, the Sucken of a mill (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Hence thirle-mill, the mill to which the thirl applies.Sc. 1709 Morison Decisions 16000:
Merchants who often live at a great distance, and neither will nor can bring them to the thirle-mill.
e.Lth. 1716 Trans. E. Lth. Antiq. Soc. VI. 69:
The Mains sends one cart for New Mill stones and those in that thirl furnish horses.
Sc. 1743 Morison Decisions 16021:
In case the possessors of the said lands should buy corn without the thirle, they should be obliged to grind the same at the pursuer's mills.
Fif. 1773 Caled. Mercury (25 Oct.):
The milns consist of three meal milns and a barley miln, and have a thirle of about six ploughs labouring.
Ags. 1819 Edb. Ev. Courant (11 Feb.) 4:
The thirl is extensive and valuable.

(3) the body of tenants of an estate bound to use a particular mill for grinding their corn.Ags. 1731 Arbroath T.C. Rec. MS. (21 July):
Mr Lyell being of the Touns thirle goes by the Mill with his Corns.
Sc. 1754 Erskine Principles ii. ix. § 12:
The quantities paid to the mill . . . by the thirl are ordinarily higher, and are called intown or insucken multures.
Rxb. 1784 Session Papers, Duke of Roxburgh v. Mein State of Process 29:
He oft-times carried the corn both of the thirl and unthirl to and from the mill.
Sc. 1794 Session Papers, Arbuthnott v. Scott (12 Feb.) 43:
Actions of damages at the instance of the thirl.

2. In eclectic or arch. usage: one bound to conditions of servitude, a bondsman or thrall.Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxxix. 11:
Lat the sign o' the weary thirl win ben afore yer sight.

Hence: (1) thirlban, a fetter, chain or bond; (2) thirlbun, one bound by conditions of servitude, a bondsman; (3) thirldom, a state of servitude; slavery, bondage; (4) thirlfolk, bondsmen, retainers, servants; (5) thirlman, servant, bondsman, slave.(1) Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms ii. 3:
Lat's rive their thirlbans syn dry.
(2) Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms cxlvi. 7:
The Lord lats the thirl-bun' gang.
(3) Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah 3:
The upshot, or lang, maun be herriment An' thirldom.
Sc. 1928 T. T. Alexander Psalms cxxvi. 1:
When Zion's thirldom God brocht hame, Like dreamin' folk were we.
(4) Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms lxix. 36:
His thirlfolk's ain outcome sal fa' the same.
(5) Sc. 1871 P. H. Waddell Psalms xxxvi.:
Ane o' David's, thirlman to the Lord.
Sc. 1913 H. P. Cameron Imit. Christ iii. xxxviii.:
Ye be lord an' ruler o' yer acks, no a thirlman or bocht wi' a fee.

III. adj. Bound to a certain mill in thirlage, astricted to.Fif. 1897 S. Tytler Witch-Wife vi.:
Malt and meal from the Mill to which he was “bound thirl.”

[O.Sc. thirl, to reduce to slavery, 1535, to bind in affection, 1567, to astrict to a mill, 1446, astriction to a mill, 1450, thirlage, bondage, c.1460, astriction to a mill, 1581, thyrldome, bondage, 1375, thirle multer, 1359, met. variants of O.Sc. thryll, threll, thrillage, thryldome, 1375, O.N. þrœ́ll, O.E. þrǣl, Eng. thrall, a slave.]

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"Thirl v.2, n.2". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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