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Random Notes Anent the Antiquities, Traditions, Superstitions, and Old Manners and Customs of the Borders. IX. – Omens, or Freits (continued.)

[Kelso Chronicle Articles Contents]

   Funerals (continued). – If a person imagines that he sees a funeral it is a sign of the death of a near relative. If it is repeated thrice, it is a certain death-omen. 

   An instance of this is recorded by Peter Galbraith in his diary, when I will here quote:- 

   “1774. Oct. 1st. – The whole village this night is fu’ o’ weepin’, wailin’, and great lamentation – Willie Hislop, our respected elder, wha has for mony a lang year gane out an’ in amang us to our nae ama’ edification, as muckle by the purity o’ his walk an’ conversation as by the soundness o’ his doctrine, met wi’ his death in an awsome sudden manner about four o’clock this afternoon. He was bringin’ hame some aits frae the outfield, when just as he was turned the corner at the head o’ the brae, the cart coupit, and killed him on the spot. But what makes this sad event mair remarkable is, that Mrs Hislop had a vision or a prognostication (I think they ca’ed) o’ his death some hours afore it happened. Some time in the forenoon o’ the same day, when she was lookin’ out at the window, she saw a funeral comin’ towards the house. She tauld this to some o’ her neist-door neibours, who were i’ the house wi her at the time. They a’ ran out to see if a funeral was comin’ that way, but after looking about they could see naething that had the smallest appearance o’ ane, so they cam’ back into the house an’ sat down again. This was repeated three several times, she as often declaring that she saw the funeral distinctly, and they maintaining that they could see nothing. She was very much cast down, an’ thought it could bode nae gude luck. Just as she was ponderin’ owre the circumstance the same afternoon, she heard a number o’ voices at the door, and on going out to see who they were, found that servants on the farm were carrying home the dead body o’ her husband, who was killed, as has been said afore, by the whomlin o’ a cart. this melancholy visitation has cast a deep gloom owre the hearts an’ countenances o’ baith auld an’ young in the Overtown. May the Lord abune be a husband to the mournin’ widow, an’ grant her grace to bear up against her heavy affliction.” 

   5. Shroud or Winding-Sheet, &c. – If a person is perceived to be surrounded by a winding-sheet, it is a sure prognostic of his death taking place soon after. If the winding-sheet is perceived to be very long, the person will die soon after; if short, not for some time, although he might be unwell when seen by the elleree or seer. The following also are sure death-omens:- Seeing empty seats and people sitting in them; hearing the sound of bells in the night-time; crickets chirping; deep groans; melancholy sounds; the death chacki.e., a noise like the ticking of a watch, but louder; the voices of persons you know naming you in the day or night-time, when they are not within the distance of your hearing them; sounds as if the house were falling; swords falling out of their scabbards; the noise of a sudden shot; rocking an empty cradle; treading on the grave of an unchristened child; seeing a person’s wraith while he is in good health, &c. 

   6. Journey. – To be called back on the outset of a journey to be informed of something your family or friends have forgotten to communicate your undertaking will prove unfortunate; therefore, return and call for meat and drink, which, after having partaken of, you may resume your journey and have a prosperous issue. 

   7. Fire. – To let the fire go out on the evening of the last day of the year, Hallowe’en, Beltane or Christmas Eve is reckoned very unfortunate for the family. To give away fire to your neighbours on the morning after any of the above mentioned days in order to kindle theirs, is called giving away to these persons all your good luck for that season from your house and family. If any person come into your house and take away fire unseen, he or she will not fare the better for so doing, as what they take is not holy, and will bring misfortune along with it. 

   8. Rocking a toomb (empty) cradle, besides reckoned a death-omen, as has already been mentioned, was firmly believed by the superstitious to bring on an incurable disease in the child accustomed to sleep in it. This belief is embodied in the following fragment:- 

“O rock na the cradle, when the baby’s not in, 

For this by old women’s accounted a sin; 

‘Tis a crime so inhuman, it may na be forgiven, 

And they that will do it, ha’e lost sight o’ heaven. 


The rocking does bring on the babie-disease, 

That make it grow freety and nane can it please; 

Its crimson lip pale grows, its clear eye grows dim, 

Its beauty soon fades, and its visage grows grim. 


Its heart flutters fast, it sighs, then is gone 

To the fair land of heaven.” (Altered from Wilkie MS.) 

9. Weather omens or prognostications


Mony haws, 

Mony snaws. 


April showers, 

Mak’ May flowers. 


Auld mune mist, 

Never died o’ thirst. 



Was never a gude sheep year. 


Every month i’ the year, 

Curses a fair Februar’. 


March dust an’ May sun, 

Make corn white and maidens dun. 


February fills the dyke, 

Either wi’ the black or white. 


The e’enin’ red and the mornin’ gray, 

Are the tokens o’ a bonnie day. 


Mist in May and heat in June, 

Mak’ the harvest right sune. 


If candlemas day be dry an’ fair, 

The half o’ the winter’s to come and mair. 


If candlemas day be wet an’ foul, 

The half o’ the winter’s gane at yule. 


When the wind’s i’ the north, 

Hail and snaw come forth. 


When the wind’s i’ the soud, 

The weather will be fair and good. 


When the wind’s i’ the east, 

Blasts o’ snaw some neist. 


When the wind’s i’ the west, 

We’re sure o’ a wat blast. 


When Ruberslaw puts on his cowl 

An’ Dunion on his hude, 

Then a’ the wives o’ Teviotdale 

Ken there will be a flude. 

J. G. S.      

– Kelso Chronicle, 18th September, 1863, p.3.

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