Editors of the Dictionaries of the Scots Language
are kindly supplying us with a Scots word of the month. This month, the word is:
Hairst, like many Scots words, differs from its English counterpart by the loss of 'v' (like doo and dove, gie and give, etc). For some Scots speakers, this gives two words for the price of one.
An informant (1955) told us, that in Creiff 'hairst' is used for the grain harvest while 'hervest' is used for the fruit harvest. Do you make this distinction yourself or know of anyone who does? If so, we would love to hear from you.
Hairst was a time of full employment. According to the Blair Journal
(1751) in the Atholl Manuscripts
: 'John Willson has the Labourers Engadged for the whole Summer, and hervest at 6 pence a Day'. They earned every penny.
G P Dunbar described the work in A Guff o Peat Reek
(1920): 'When first I teen the wide hairst rig wi' ither sturdy men, The scythe wis a' the gear we hed, an' hard wrocht oors we'd spen'. Of course, the scythe is symbolic of the grim reaper, referred to in the Aberdeen Book-lover
(1924) as 'The Hairster, auld and grim himsel'' and Blackwood's Magazine
(1885) similarly refers to 'daith's dool hairst'.
Hairst had its lighter moments though: 'For there was brose, an' milk, an' kail, Bannocks o' bere, an' hervest ale' (H Haliburton in Ochil Idylls
, 1891) and G Robertson recalled in Har'st Rig
(1801): 'For tongues are free, On the har'st rig, to gab an' crack', perhaps leading to amorous dalliance.
So H Ainslie in A Pilgrimage to the Land of Burns
(1892) asks: 'Are there touslins on the hairst rig?' We all know what Burns got up to 'amang the riggs wi Annie', but would he have fancied the lass described by J Baxter in A' Ae 'Oo'
(1928): 'I see her nose licht up the dark, An' shame the hairsters' meen'?
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