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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

TUSKER, n. Also tuskar; tushkar, -er; toysker (Sh. 1856 E. Edmondston Sketches 190), toyster (Ork. 1929 Marw.); tuisker, twiscar (Sh. 1822 Scott Pirate xii.); turskill (Cai.). A spade with a feathered or flanged blade capable of making a right-angled cut and used to slice out peats with a vertical thrust from the top of a peat bank (I.Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl., I.Sc., Cai. 1973), also attrib. See A. Fenton in The Spade (1969) 155 sqq. Comb. tuskerman, a cutter of peats, phr. a tuskar of peats, the number of peats one can cut in a day with a tusker (Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. iv. 129). [′tʌskər, Sh. ′tʌʃ-]Ork. 1734 P. Ork. A.S. (1923) I. 65:
One Iron Lamp, two sufficient tuskars.
Cai. 1812 J. Henderson Agric. Cai. 234:
When the peat-moss is not more than from one to two feet deep, the peat is cut perpendicularly by a spade called a turskill. This instrument is about nine inches long with a heel at right angles to the right side, two inches and a half broad, with a perpendicular socket (being the continuance of the heel) to embrace the wooden handle about four feet and a half long, and in it is fixed a foot-step of wood, a few inches above the termination of the socket of the spade. The peat-cutter, holding the handle with both hands, with one push of the right foot drives the spade into the moss so as to cut out a peat, or turf, 12 inches long and two inches thick.
Sh. 1815 Sh. Advertiser (6 Jan. 1862):
Toilin wi' a mure spedd or a tushker in his haand fae d' swaar o' d' dim t' sinsett.
Sh. 1822 S. Hibbert Description 430:
An ancient Scandinavian implement of husbandry is used for casting the peats, named a ‘tuskar', its shaft is rather longer than that of a common spade, whilst to the bottom of it is affixed a sharp iron-plate, styled a ‘feather'.
Sh. 1874 Trans. Highl. Soc. 203:
In cutting the peat the moss (feal) is pared off, and the peats are cast with the tasker [sic] and laid to dry.
Ork. 1884 R. M. Fergusson Rambles 180:
A peculiar spade about four feet in length called a Toysker. The spade cuts the peats into their proper size.
Sh. 1897 Shetland News (15 May):
Sharpnin his tuisker apo' da briggie stanes.
Ork. 1907 Old-Lore Misc. I. iv. 133:
The people did not burn many of what they called “tuskar peats”, — these were the best and were reserved chiefly for sale.
Cai. 1963 Edb. John o' Groat Liter. Soc. Mag. 7:
Willie took the “tuskar”, cut deep into the peat bog and produced an oblong dark peat.
Sh. 1964 Folk Life I. 6:
Where the peat tended to be rough, a foot-peg or heel like that on the Shetland delving spade was added to the tushker, and the peats were delled out. On a good peat moor, no heel was needed, and the tushker was thrust in by the arms alone.
Cai. 1992 James Miller A Fine White Stoor 121:
Plants die but dinna rot and all the dead stuff piles up through the centuries, a great midden o rottenness that doesna rot, and in the end we cut it wi our tuskars for peat.

[O.Sc. torsker, 1621, O.N. torfskeri, Faer. torvskeri, a peat-spade, from torf, turf, + skera, to cut. The form turskill is from the Gael. by-form tairisgil, of the same ultimate orig.]

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"Tusker n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2024 <>



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