Re: [Peterhead] "Bothy" vs. "Chaumer" / Bothy ballads/ Shanty songs; Reply
- Greetings, Hester: I will have a detailed e-mail response to your mail on
the James Milne-Elizabeth Walker matter, but I need a little time to work that
out. Suffice to say that there is more than a 90% chance that one or more of
their children or their children's descendants, became Mormons. I have seen
Mormon filings before on their family net. If your James Milne and my James
Milne are one and the same, I believe we both have distant Mormon relatives.
At any rate, James and Elizabeth seem to be your ancestors, and in that event,
almost certainly you have Mormon relatives someplace. Right now I am not
sure how you find them, but I have had the same sheets and references before and
came up with the names and addresses of the filers.(I have used a genealogist
and specialist in Scots genealogy( a Mormon) in Salt Lake before, and I know
she could solve part of the problem) I am following one Thomas McWilliam, my
ggrandmothers uncle, who emigrated at age 52 to New Zealand and was both
eminently successful and also had descendants there who were noted citizens. My
point being that your James Milne could have emigrated: to England;to Canada;
to New Zealand; to Australia, to the United States, or possibly another
location. At older ages, it did occur to them to follow their children to the
childrens location...it assurred the same form of social security that children
gave them in Scotland.
Ian Carter in his book: FARM LIFE IN NORTHEAST SCOTLAND subtitled the
book: (The Poor Man's Country) was primarily referring to Aberdeenshire, but
he could definitely have included Kincardineshire also(where Scots Quair and
Sunset Song are sited)
In Aberdeenshire, the farms were smaller on the average. The richest and
most productive Scottish farms at the time were in the area down and around
Edinburgh...their was a belt of large farms in that area of south Scotland with
farmers with much capital and a large number of farm servants. The more capital
and production the greater social distance between the farm operators and the
One has to realize that particularly in the nineteenth century, but of course
still today, Scotland, even though a small country is really a fair number of
different regions with great similarities but very important differences.
The Northeast was definitely off the beaten track in the nineteenth century and
before and has many features unique to it and not to all of Scotland
A very small farm might have any servants living right with the family and
that would be true not just in the Northeast, but Scotland, generally. When
farms got larger and productivity increased, it was not practical to house all
of the servants in the "farmers" household, even if his wife would have agreed.
You need to know that the rural part of Aberdeenshire that you saw, would be
totally unrecognizable, except for a few landmarks...to some one from 1750 to
1800 or even much later...at one time it was boggy and filled with peat beds,
moorish like, stones all over, and full of just rough pasture. As the land
was remade, many farms that were leased had enough land that even what we
would call a small one today, required so much arm labor, that more help was
needed than would fit in a household, and much of that labor help probably was not
too desirable to a careful farmer's wife.
The "Chaumer" was a partial housing situation. The farm servants, mainly
single men, lived there in very rudimentary conditions. The redeeming aspect
was that they ate in the farmer's kitchen. Often the farmer ate with them.
Later, as the farmer or his wife got more socially conscious, they would take
their meals in another part of the house. As I previously stated the chaumer
were quarters in an outbuilding either on the first floor of often over the
stables. One can often spot where the "chaumer" was, yet today...at Rannieston it
was over the stables..actually a deluxe accomodation...at Nethehill, where
ggrandmother was born in St Fergus, I thought I could spot the area on the
ground floor of a barn where it had been. I have studied the situation of "farm
servants" in Aberdeenshire generally over 100 years, and many of the
chaumer-farm kitchen arrangements persisted well up to the second World War. Technology
changes finally changed the situation. In some circumstances cottages for
married men were so scarce years ago that the husband had to find quarters for
his wife and children, if any...with family or in a nearby town.
The truest "Bothy" country was south of Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire.
Most famous for "Bothies" was Angus or Forfarshire...probably because they
persisted there longer than about any other place in Scotland. There they had
separate "bothies" for single men and for single women. They were generally not
pleasant places...the farmer would be more concerned about his animals, in
many cases. The men would typically make their own meals there...also a separate
bothy housed women. Sometimes a elderly lady would come in and do some
serving...but that was a deluxe feature, not common in the early days. As stated,
I recently sent a census showing how things were in 1861 on a large Angus
farm, to relatives. This farm had three cottages, besides the farmers home.
These were for married farm servants..One being a cattleman...usually the most
important servant...the other two for married ploughman. Then there was a
mens Bothy holding four single men characterized as ploughmen. Then two Farm
servant Highland girls shared a second Bothy. Women were paid about half what
men got and worked at least as hard. In the house was a house servant girl
and a "in and out" girl...these were locals When the farmer had a large family
as it did here at one time there was not room for farm servants. THE POINT
IS THAT AS CAPITAL NEEDS INCREASED ON THE FARMS, THE SOCIAL GAPS BETWEEN THE
FARMER AND HIS LABORERS INCREASED. Further the true consideration by farmers
for the welfare of their servants tended to decrease, so long as they got the
There were such "Bothies" in Aberdeenshire; However, they must have been in
a minority or Sherrif Watson, its High Sheriff, could never have railed at
farmers having the true "bothies" in such a ranting mannner.
In all parts of the Northeast the bothy ballad, even tho it did not
necessarily mean it came from the true "bothy" became a factor. There were itinerant
composers, and on complaint by a servant that a certain master treated his
servants badly, the master would be the recipient perhaps for all time of a
bothy song about his bad treatment. Every item of farm servant lives was grist
for these composers. One can learn often better from these songs what the farm
servants experienced or endured than from prose recitations.
In all descriptions of farm life in the nineteen hundreds, one has to
remember they were all siZes of farms, and changing agricultural technology made
some differences, and farming methods changed....they went from a rather small
horse to the big Clydesdales...a very big investment if many were purchased..
In the Parish of Old Deer every year in the days of the Clydesdales, they
held a fair where there were many thousands of Clydesdales for sale. They were
the equivalent of power tractors of the time. Most farmers and many farm
servants came by the thousands. The ploughman had a secret society of Horsemen and
initiations all in secret. I have digressed too far already. There was the
Horsemans "Word" and the so- called "Clean toon" The servants had ways of
protecting their interests. The books I mentioned will give you all of this.
Regards, Jim Thomson
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