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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

LAMMAS, n. Also -mass; and obs. forms lambes, -as, -mes, -mass. [′lɑməs]

1. The 1st of August, orig. a harvest festival for the consecration of the new bread and common in Eng. till the early 18th c. The word survives in Eng. mainly in certain combs. but is still current in Scot. where Lammas is one of the quarter-days. Used attrib. as in Lammas day, — night, etc. and fig. See also combs.Sc. 1701 Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1908) 332:
To make yearly payment to him of the said one hundereth pounds of yearly sellarie, quarterly, commensing frae Lambmes last.
Lnk. 1712 Minutes J.P.s (S.H.S.) 132:
The saids Justices ordains the overseers . . . to give in a report of their dilligence . . . against the nixt Lambas Quarter Session.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 185:
It is long to Lammas. Spoken in Jest, when we forget to lay down Bread at the Table, as if we had done it designedly, because it will be long e'er new Bread come.
Ayr. 1730 Burgh Rec. Prestwick (M.C.) 90:
Noe person to cutte bent till after lambes yeirlie.
Abd. c.1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 143:
Since Lambas I'm now gaing thirty an' twa.
Sh. 1774 G. Low Tour (1879) 82:
Their Festivals are Christmas, Newyears-day, . . . Lambmass, Candlemass.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Corn Rigs i.:
It was upon a Lammas night, When corn rigs are bonie.
Ayr. 1816 A. Boswell Poet. Wks. (1871) 164:
The bauld Barganey bids me say, Whan mornin breaks on Lammas-day, A Sow upon your land I'll tether.
Rnf. 1825 Gaberlunzie 169:
And my lammas o' life, thir lang wearyfu' years, Like lammas, has brought me its flood o' saut tears.
Wgt. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 59:
There are two fairs in the year, — the one at Midsummer, and the other at Lammas.
Sc. 1876 J. Grant Burgh Sch. Scot. 469:
The old quarterly terms for paying the school fees were Lammas, Hallowmass, Candlemas and Beltane.
Ork. 1949 in E. Marwick Anthology Ork. Verse 131:
It's six year bye come Lammas, Sin' he gaed afore the face.

2. Combs.: (1) Lammas beuld, see Boold; (2) Lammas bite, see quot.; (3) Lammas breard, immature corn. See Breard; (4) Lammas brither, a Lammas Market sweetheart (Ork. 1912 Old-Lore Misc. V. ii. 72, ‡Ork. 1960). See (12) and (18); (5) Lammas Court, a meeting of the Court of an Incorporated Trade held at Lammas; (6) Lammas drave, the summer herring-fishing on the Fife coast, gen. at its peak about the beginning of August (Kcd., Fif. 1960). See Drave; (7) Lammas Fair, a fair held at Lammas in various parts of Scotland and n.Ireland (Uls. 1953 Traynor; Fif., Wgt., Uls. 1960); (8) Lammas feast, a country festival held at this season (Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems II. 1); (9) Lammas flude(s), a flood caused by a period of heavy rain about Lammas (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1953 Traynor; Ork., Fif., wm.Sc., Uls. 1960). Cf. (16) and (19); (10) Lammas herring, a herring in the Lammas drave. See (6); (11) Lammasman, a young salmon-trout which begins its journey up a river from the sea for the first time about the beginning of August (Per. 1871 Sc. Naturalist I. 233); (12) Lammas market, a fair held at Lammas (O.S.), esp. one still held in Kirkwall and St Andrews (Ork., Fif. 1960); (13) Lammas muir, id. See Muir; (14) Lammas night, The evening of 1st August. (15) Lammas pear, a variety of pear ripening about this season; (16) Lammas rain(s), autumnal rain-storms. See (9); (17) Lammas shoot, see quot.; (18) Lammas sister, a Lammas Fair sweetheart. See (4) and (7); (19) Lammas spate, -speat, -speet, = (9) (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Sh., Ork., em.Sc.(a), Lth., Lnk., Gall. 1960); (20) Lammas stream, a high and strong tide occurring at this season (Cai. 1902 E.D.D.; Ork., Cai., Kcd. 1960); (21) Lammas tower, see quot. and J. Nicol Poems (1805) II. 4–17. Part of the festivities consisted in attacks by the various groups on these strongholds of their rivals; (22) Lammas trout, = 2. (11) Lammasman.(23) Lammas whiting, = (11).(2) Fif. 1882 J. Simson Reminiscences 46:
Even the herds had a half-holiday; in anticipation of which they carefully kept their cows off a piece of grass long in advance of the fair (and hence called a “Lammas bite”), so that on the morning of it the animals were turned into the reserve pasture which would furnish them as much grass during the forenoon as they could get the whole day under ordinary circumstances.
(3) Bnff. a.1897 Cal. Customs Scot. (Banks) III. 46:
“Lammas buard” [sic], i.e. grain in the ear, never fillt the meal kist.
(4) Ork. 1822 Scott Pirate xxxii. note:
It was anciently a custom at Saint Ollaw's Fair at Kirkwall, that the young people of the lower class, and of either sex, associated in pairs for the period of the Fair, during which the couple were termed Lambmas brother and sister.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 123:
On these occasions a young gallant paying attention to any particular lady was called “Lammas brither.”
(5) Gsw. 1733 Lumsden & Aitken Hammermen Gsw. (1912) 266:
Receiv'd at the Hallow Court . . . £29. 2. Receiv'd at the Lammas Court . . . £8. 17.
Sc. 1999 Herald 23 Jul 28:
A General Meeting of the Incorporation [of Weavers of Glasgow] being the Lammas Court will be held in the Trades House, Glassford Street, on Thursday 5 August at 12.45pm for the nomination of Office Bearers and other usual business.
(6) Fif. 1863 St Andrews Gazette (14 Feb.):
By the failure of the Lammas drave and of the subsequent line fishing, there have been much want and suffering in our community.
Sc. 1930 P. F. Anson Fishing Boats 98:
The “Lammas Drave,” i.e. the summer herring fishing.
(7) Sc. 1821 Edb. Ev. Courant (23 Aug.):
The Lockerby Lammas fair, which is the greatest for lambs in Scotland, was held on the 14th inst.
Uls. 1844 R. Huddleston Poems 64:
Tae sing the day, tae sing the fair, That birkies ca' the Lammas.
Wgt. 1877 G. Fraser Sketches 21:
The third and greatest fair is call'd Lambas Fair.
Kcd. 1884 D. Grant Lays 27:
I canna tell the day an' date, But Lammas Fair was by.
Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 122:
The great market of the season was the Lammas Fair, which was held on the first Tuesday after the eleventh of August; and though now but a shadow of former things, is yet the most popular gathering in Orkney.
(8) Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 109:
We'll mickle miss his blyth and witty Jest At Spaining Time, or at our Lambmass Feast.
(9) Mry. 1775 L. Shaw Hist. Moray 149:
Usually we have the Lambmass Flood in the beginning of August.
Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. I. 422:
There is almost every season, abundant rain in August, called provincially Lammas floods, to restore sufficient tenacity and cloddiness to clay soil, the only fit subject for fallow.
Dmf. 1842 Carlyle Letters (Bliss 1953) 158:
Our weather is quite broken; the “Lammas Flood”, as they call it in Scotland.
(10) Fif. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XIII. 198:
Lammas herrings have, in our memory, been caught in immense quantities within this bay, on the coast of Kingsbarns parish.
(11) Edb. 1880 F. Day Fishes II. 90:
In the grilse stage in Scotland, phinok, herling, . . . and lammasmen, Edinburgh market.
Sc. 1910 P. D. Malloch Fresh-water Fish 127:
In the grilse state it is known as herling, whitling, Finnock, Lammasmen, etc.
(12) Fif. 1832 Fife Herald (19 July):
The Magistrates of St Andrews hereby give public intimation, that in consequence of the alarming increase of Cholera throughout the country, they have resolved to prohibit all persons coming from infected districts selling goods, wares, or merchandise of any kind, in the ensuing Lammas Market.
Fif. 1959 Scotsman (8 Aug.) 6:
Yesterday showmen from all over the country arrived in the town [St Andrews] for the annual Lammas Market and set up their stalls, roundabouts and sideshows on the cobbled part of the street.
(13) Kcd. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 XI. 109:
Another market, also for the sale of horses and cattle, has been lately established, or rather revived, in the west end of the parish, viz. Lammas-muir. This is likewise held in July.
(14)sm.Sc. 1979 Alan Temperley Tales of Galloway (1986) 238:
It was Lammas night in Kirkmaiden and the harvesters were drinking late.
(15) Sc. 1814 J. Sinclair Agric. Scot. II. 176:
At Milltown of Ketwall, there are some remarkably large Lammas and auchan pear-trees, about a century old.
(16) Fif. 1806 A. Douglas Poems 119:
Het simmer suns an' Lammas rains, Have mantl'd a' the spreadin' plains Wi' yellow wavin' corn.
Ayr. 1882 A. L. Orr Laigh Flichts 13:
The sweat gaed trintlin' owre his cheeks In draps like Lammas rain.
Sh. 1898 “Junda” Klingrahool 23:
The Beltin mist and the Lammas rain.
(17) Fif. 1952 St Andrews Cit. (30 Aug.) 8:
Then came August and buds destined to start growth the following spring burst their scales, and many of the trees became alive with small bright green shoots. . . . Though this “second growth,” the so-called Lammas shoots, is not uncommon, it never ceases to surprise me.
(18) Ork. 1829 J. Malcolm Tales 297:
Every young man of spirit takes care to provide himself with a chère amie during the fair, who is called a Lammas Sister; but who permits, and doubtless expects, something more than mere brotherly love.
(19) Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 372:
If the Lammas spate made the brig totter.
Kcb. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IV. 99:
The most destructive of these periodical inundations occurs at the beginning of August or end of July, and it is known in the country by the name of the Lammas Speat.
Fif. 1868 St Andrews Gazette (8 Aug.):
We are looking forward to the Lammas spate to give us some relief.
Sh. 1899 Shetland News (26 Aug.):
Dey niver ken, or dinna consider, at der sic a thing as Lammas speets.
(20) Fif. 1864 St Andrews Gazette (13 Feb.):
Tuesday's tide was as high as 18 feet 6 inches. The proverbial Lammas stream, which occurs on Thursday 18th August, rises two inches less.
(21) Lth. 1792 Archaeol. Scotica I. 194:
All the herds of a certain district, towards the beginning of summer, associated themselves into bands, sometimes to the number of a hundred or more. Each of these communities agreed to build a tower in some conspicuous place, near the centre of their district, which was to serve as the place of their rendezvous on Lammas day. This tower was usually built of sods, for the most part square, about four feet in diameter at the bottom, and tapering to a point at the top, which was seldom above seven or eight feet from the ground. The name of Lammas-towers will remain (some of them having been built of stone) after the celebration of the festival has ceased.
(22)Highl. 1944 Dugald MacIntyre Highland Naturalist 121:
... he had grown from about three ounces in weight to twelve. Highlanders named him "Lammas trout" now, but lowlanders called him "finnock" or "whiting".
(23) Per. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 525:
There is also to be found here a small sea trout, called the Lammas whiting, from a quarter to half a pound weight, of exquisite taste. It is so called, from its coming up from the sea at this season.
Per. 1803 Prize Essays Highl. Soc. 354:
In the Tay, above Perth, it is called the lammas whiting, from its appearance in the river at that season.

[O.Sc. Lammes, from 1398, Lambmes, 1549, Lambeth fluid, 1598, Lambes fair, 1605, Lambes hering, 1609, O.E. hlāfmæsse, “loaf-mass”.]

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"Lammas n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 2 Mar 2024 <>



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