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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1952 (SND Vol. III). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

CLYACK, Cliack, Clyak, Claaick, Klyack, Klyock, Glyack, n. Also ¶claik[′klɑɪək, ′klɑjək n.Sc., but mn.Sc. + ′glɑɪək]

1. “The last sheaf of corn to be cut at the harvest” (e.Rs.1 1929; Mry.1 1912), gen. cut by the youngest person on the farm. It was dressed to represent a maiden, or decorated with ribbons and carried home in triumph. At “Aul' Eel Even” it was given to the oldest (or sometimes to the best) animal on the farm, or to a mare in foal. Usually in phr. to tak, get (Abd. 1863 G. Macdonald D. Elginbrod xi.) or hae clyack. In the south of Scot. this is called the kirn (see Kirn, n.2, 2), elsewhere the Maiden. Sometimes used attrib. with sheaf.Inv. 1936 J. H. Crowley in Daily Mail (8 Jan.):
They told us that the clyack usually, after the loading-in, was hung over the byre door and given to the cattle on Christmas Day.
Bnff.2 1930:
We'll tak klyack the moarn if it's a gweed day.
ne.Sc. 1822 William Mackie compiler, ed. David Stevenson The Diary of a Canny Man (1991) 85:
28th August, 1822
Sent man away this morning for Juda's eggs, and the rest to the scything and they got finished by taking cliack a little after one o'clock. It is all cut now but no corn nor bear into the yard. The crop will not be bulky.
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 190:
At the cutting of the corn, he said, the last sheaf was taken by the youngest person in the field; it was bound in the shape of a woman and called the clyack sheaf, or the maiden. That sheaf was carried home with honour and hung above the hearth.
Abd. c.1780 Ellis E.E.P. V. 771:
The wainer ox got the glyack sheaf.
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. iii.:
“Ay, an' ye wud like to hae klyock first,” thought Wastie to himself.

2. The end of harvest; formerly denoting the end of the cutting, but later applied to the state of having all the sheaves led in and stored. Also used attrib.Sc. 1782 F. Douglas E. Coast of Scot. 170:
The Clyak-feast . . . is celebrated a few days after the last of their corns are cut down; when it is an established rule that there must be meat, both roasted and boiled.
ne.Sc. 1931 H. M'G. in Weekly Scotsman (5 Sept.):
An early harvest was always called a “Maiden cliack,” whereas a late one was “the carlin cliack.”
Mry. a.1909 Colville 154:
I was told that the farm hands always “hed a feastie at Clyack, getting leave, too, to spread butter on the pieces ad lib.”
Abd.(D) 1877 W. Alexander North. Rural Life in 18th Cent. xv.:
People came from the next parish, when harvest was over, to buy them [turnips] . . . from his farm grieve, to be used as a dainty dish at the “clyack” supper and other fit occasions.
Mearns 1932 “L. G. Gibbon” Sunset Song 258:
He's finished, Chris quean, and it's clyak.

3. (1) Transferred to the dinner or supper given to the reapers at the end of harvest; “harvest-home” (Abd. 1808 Jam., claaick): “it consisted of oat-cake, fresh butter, cheese and whiskey” (Mry. 1910 (per Ayr.1); (2) improperly used of a celebration held at the close of the fishing season.(1) Bnff. 1924 Burnie's Jeannie in Swatches o' Hamespun 33:
Mrs Moffat may have an announcement to make on the night of her “clyack.”
Abd. 1851 W. Anderson Rhymes, etc. 141:
There wasna a cliack, a dancin', or fair, A weddin' or christ'nin', but Murdo was there.
Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 134:
Met wi' Bess at a claik, danc'd wi' her a reel.
(2) Bch. 1910 A. Murray Peterhead a Century Ago 42:
In days of yore the Messrs Arbuthnot held a feast at the end of the fishing, called a clyak. They met in the fish house and had a salmon dinner and something to wash them down with.

4. Combs.: (1) clyack dish, “meal and ale, a mixture of home-brewed ale and oatmeal, with a little whisky stirred into it, forming the chief dish at the harvest home” (Bnff.4, Bnff.7 1912); †(2) clyack horn, the vessel in which whisky, etc. was handed round at the clyack feast.(2) Abd. 1841 J. Imlah Poems and Songs 203:
'Tis blithe to toom the clyack horn, At the foot o' Bennachie!

[From Gael. caileag, a girl, by metathesis; MacLennan gives the meaning “the last handful of standing corn in a farm” s.v. cailleach, an old woman, which, although apparently incongruous, is prob. to be explained by the different terms used for an early or late harvest (see Carline, n., 3). The metathetic form has been taken back into Gael. from Sc. as claidheag, the last handful of corn cut on the farm, the “maiden” (MacBain and MacLennan).]

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"Clyack n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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