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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.

CREEL, Creil, Kreel, Criell, n., v. and adj. [kril]

I. n. Originally Sc. and n.Eng. only, but now in gen. use in Eng. in the form creel in the sense of a wicker basket for carrying fish. Dim. creelie.

1. A deep wicker basket carried on the back by means of a strap passing round the breast or (more rarely) the forehead, “or slung one on each side of a donkey” (Uls.2 1929), used for carrying fish, peats, potatoes, etc.; †a basket for the transport of coal in a mine, a corf. Gen.Sc.Sc. 1702 R. Wodrow Early Letters (S.H.S. 1937) 234:
These in the creil will cary weel eneugh in it.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 178:
Put your Hand in the Creel, and take out either an Adder or an Eel. Spoken of taking a Wife, where no Cunning, Art, or Sense can secure a good Choice, but must be taken For better and worse.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. (1817) xxii.:
Glossin! — Gibbie Glossin! — that I have carried in my creels a hundred times . . . — he to presume to buy the barony of Ellangowan!
Sc. 1827 Scott in J. G. Lockhart Life of Scott (1838) VII. 36:
I have heard that the fish-women go to church of a Sunday with their creels new washed, and a few stones in them for ballast, just because they cannot walk steadily without their usual load.
Hebr 1998 Peter MacNab Tobermory Teuchter 28:
When hard enough to be handled (peat contains 90% water), the blocks are set up in little cromlechs or 'tents' through which the drying winds can blow. When thoroughly dry, they are barrowed or carried in creels to the nearest point where a vehicle (horse-drawn in the past, motorised now) can be driven and taken home to be built into an artistic stack which is then covered with a piece of tarpaulin.
Abd.(D) 1915 H. Beaton Back o' Benachie 16:
Rax doon that creelie, noo, an' pit th' pottage in 't, an' pit in a bannock or twa.
Edb. 1828 D. M. Moir Mansie Wauch (1839) i.:
Donald Bogie, the tinkler from Yetholm, came and left his little jackass in the byre, while he was selling about his crockery of cups and saucers, and brown plates, on the old one, . . . in two creels.
wm.Sc. 1986 Robert McLellan in Joy Hendry Chapman 43-4 20:
A creel of peats downstage from the fire. An elbow chair upstage from the fire. By the window in the back wall a bunker with a hand kirn, two buckets of water, a tin can, a crook and two bowls.
Rnf. 1720 W. Hector Judicial Rec. (1876–78) II. 264:
Casualties — 5 bolls meal, 3 pecks multar bere, 12 hens, 12 criells of peats.
Ayr. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 V. 647:
The output of coal is not allowed to exceed 20 creels (which is something short of three tons) per day.
Rxb. 1826 A. Scott Poems 74:
Your Nymph of Tyne, too, I've seen black Wi' shoals of coal kreels on her back.
Slk. 1798 R. Douglas Agric. Rxb. and Slk. 262:
The creels or baskets, in which they [peats] and other articles are carried on horseback, being common in all hilly countries, where there are no roads for carts.

Hence creelfu', a basketful (Bnff.2, Abd.2, Fif.10 1940). Jam.2 gives form creilfow.e.Sc. 1911 in Glasgow Herald (6 May):
We had jist tae traivel into Embro' twice i' the week, sax miles ilka way, an' wi' mony a heavy creelfu' o' fish.

2. A wickerwork contrivance (see first quot.) used as a trap for fish, lobsters, etc. (Cai.7, Bnff.2, Abd.9, Slg.3, Fif.10, Edb.1, Arg.1 1940).Cai. 1701 J. Brand Descr. Orkney, Zetland, etc. 150:
There is good Salmond-Fishing, which they take in two ways, one is by Crues or Creels with crossed or barred doors going from the one side of the Water to the other, so framed that they suffer the fishes to go in, but not to go out.
Fif. 1887 G. Gourlay Old Neighbours 34:
“Luff my lad, and weather the creels,” i.e. the lobster pots.

3. Applied fig. to the stomach or womb (Bnff.2 1940).Sc. 1825 Jam.2:
Is your creil, or creelie fu' yet?
Abd. c.1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1767) 40:
No more young Jocks into the creel This day for me.
Ags. 1867 G. W. Donald Poems 79:
Their broken taes an' blistered heels She tends fu' fain; But when they cry ower empty creels, Nane kens her pain.

4. Phrases and Combs.: (1) creel-barn, a barn with the walls partly of wicker-work (see quot.); †(2) creel heids (heads), in phr. as gryte (thrang) as creel heids (heads), on very friendly terms; (3) creel house, a cottage of wattle or wickerwork; (4) creel-hut, = creel-house; (5) creel-money, see quot. and cf. II. 2; (6) creel-pig, “a young pig, such as is taken to market in a creel or basket” (Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.); †(7) heels and creels and a', head over heels; given as obs. by Watson in Rxb. W.-B. (1923) 100; (8) in a creel, in confusion, in a state of perplexity, gen. applied to the head or senses; mad; known to Abd.9, Ags.17, Fif.10, Lnk.11, Kcb. correspondents 1940, but given as obsol. by Watson in Rxb. W.-B. (1923) 100; cf. phr. s.v. Krul, n., 2; †(9) to cast the creils with (someone), ? to reproach, fall out with (someone); (10) to coup the creels, see Coup, v.1(1) Rs. 1810 G. S. Mackenzie Agric. Rs. 232:
We find creel-barns everywhere erected. These are constructed partly of stone, with large apertures in the walls, which are filled up with wicker-work. Sometimes they are made entirely of wicker-work, except the roof, which is always close.
(2) Abd. 1824 G. Smith Douglas 64:
Ye were as thrang short syne as twa creel heads.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxxii.:
Geyan lickly gae to Gushets! as muckle's ye wud gie Dawvid to oon'erstan' that we're as gryte's creel heids wi' them. . . . Fan will ye leern rumgumption, man?
(3) Sc. 1878 J. Mackintosh Hist. Civiliz. Scot. I. Intro. 134:
Till recently crell [creel] houses were used in some parts of the Highlands.
Inv. 1808 J. Robertson Agric. Inv. 58:
These standards are closely wove with wicker-work, to keep the sods from falling in; which being built on the outside, finish the side walls of a creel-house, as it is called.
(4) Sc. 1758 Forfeited Estate Papers (S.H.S.) 115:
He found only a few ruinous 'creel huts, without doors, bands or locks.'
(5) Bwk. 1906 D. M'Iver Eyemouth 193:
This custom of giving creel-money goes far back in the history of the town. Tradition has it that immediately after the ceremony the bridegroom was expected to hand over some money, or, by way of alternative, carry a creel filled with stones. This burden was slung over the happy man's shoulders, and if, while he ran, and before he covered a certain distance, his bride successfully cut the rope which bound the creel to her husband's back, he had no creel-money to pay.
(7) s.Sc. 1871 H. S. Riddell Poet. Wks. I. 198:
And in its [earth's] ain life's latest throb O'ercoup us heels and creels and a,.
(8) Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality vi.:
“The laddie's in a creel!” exclaimed his uncle. . . . “He would fling the crown of Scotland awa, if he had it.”
Abd. 1920 A. Robb MS.:
She said that oor heids had seerly been in a creel and her nane ane in the boddom o't fan we had forgotten to tell oor names.
Ags. 1883 J. Kennedy Poems (1899) 122:
Glorious hameward reels rejoicin' Wi' his senses in a creel.
Lnk. 1904 I. F. Darling Songs 29:
“Sic claverin', laddie, Ye're haverin', laddie;” Quo' I, “Man, yer head's in a creel.”
Ayr. 1786 Burns Ep. to W. Simpson iii.:
My senses wad be in a creel, Should I but dare a hope to speel. . . The braes o' fame.
(9) em.Sc. 1706 Mare of Collingtoun in J. Watson Choice Collection (1869) I. 52:
Though you with me shou'd cast the Creils And of your Help refuse me.

II. v.

1. To put into a “creel” or basket (Sc. 1808 Jam., creil; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Used fig. in phr. no(t) (gude) to creel eggs wi' (with), (see first quot.).Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B.:
“He's no gude to creel eggs wi',” i.e. not easy, or safe, to deal with. This refers to the practice of Cadgers or Egglers, who collect eggs through the country, and pack them in their hampers.
Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 106:
It was reiterated in my hearing that “the laird was not to creel eggs with.”

2. (See quots.) Gen. in vbl.n. creelin(g). The practice seems to vary slightly in different districts. For the earliest mention of the custom of creeling, see Ramsay Chr. Kirk iii. xii. in Poems (1721) and Note. Also creeler, one who takes part in a creeling.Fif. 1912 D. Rorie Mining Folk Fife 393:
On the first appearance of the newly-married man at his work he had to “pay aff” or “stand his hand” (stand treat). Failing this he was rubbed all over with dust and grime. This was called “creelin.”
Lth. 1882 J. Strathesk Blinkbonny xii.:
The whisky was greedily drained by the creelers.
Bwk. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 II. 59:
Once a year . . . all the men who have been married within the last twelvemonth are creeled. This consists in having a creel or basket suspended to the individual's shoulders, . . . while he runs . . . from his own house to that of his next new-married neighbour.
Bwk. 1939 F. Drake-Carnell It's an old Sc. Custom 108:
The custom of “creeling” the bridegroom is peculiar to the Lowlands and the Border particularly near Berwick. . . . Among the fisher folk the creeling often takes place on the day after the wedding.
Lnk. 1893 T. Stewart Miners 69:
This day we'll never turn a wheel; Ye ken we've Johnnie Swan tae creel.
Ayr. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 II. 80–81:
The second day after the marriage, a creeling, as it is called, takes place. The young wedded pair, with their friends, assemble in a convenient spot. A small creel or basket is prepared . . . into which, they put some stones. The young men carry it alternately, and allow themselves to be caught by the maidens, who have a kiss when they succeed. . . . The creel falls at length to the young husband's share. . . . At last, his fair mate kindly relieves him from his burden.

3. To nurture, rear. Fig. use from n., 1, above (see third quot.).Lnk. 1919 G. Rae 'Tween Clyde and Tweed 107:
Yin whase knees bespak him weavin' bred, And puirly creeled.

4. To make baskets, etc., of wicker-work. Vbl.n. creeling.w.Sc. 1773 Boswell Tour to Hebrides (1936) 138:
The art of creeling or working in wattles seems to be well practised among these islanders.

III. adj. Orig. of fish: worth putting in a creel, worth-while, useable, serviceable. Also in a more gen. sense. wm.Sc. 1868 Laird of Logan App. 495:
Creel, adj. - Worth preserving; a term used by fishers in reference to small fish, synonymous with "is worth house room,"and used also by mineralogists in the same sense.

[O.Sc. has crele, creil, creel, kreill, etc., earliest date a.1400, often in pl. crelis; also creil(l)ful(l) (D.O.S.T.), of obscure origin.]

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"Creel n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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