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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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

HEUCH, n., v. Also heugh; †hew; †haigh. [Sc. çjux, çjʌx; w.Abd. çjɔx, s.Sc. çjuxʍ; †høx, heç; pl. †çju:z. See P.L.D. § 35.6.]

I. n. 1. A crag or precipice, a cliff or steep bank, esp. one overhanging river or sea (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Uls. 1880 Patterson Gl.). Gen.Sc. Very freq. in place-names.Wgt. 1707 Session Bk. Glasserton MS. (9 March):
Wandering about the Heugh and watching a broken boat about the shoar.
Sc. 1721 J. Kelly Proverbs 334:
The Ware Evening is long and tough, The Harvest Evening runs soon o'er the Heugh.
Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 5:
And glens and heughs Are hunted for the cockrel, but in vain.
Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 286:
What sport next do you chuse, I'll start it out soon from my hews, Upon sweet Catrine Valley.
Kcd. c.1800 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 53:
The laird of Drum in coming from the south to Dunottar Castle on seeing the lights . . . pushed his horse over the heugh into the Old haw, a pit on the south side of Castle.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. xxvi.:
And, from the top of a heugh, or broken bank, enjoyed the scene much more to his own satisfaction.
Per. 1816 J. Duff Poems 87:
Syne a great haigh they row'd him down, A hideless corse.
Fif. 1860 H. Farnie Fife Coast 17:
Along this strip of coast forest wind picturesqe walks, and the locality is known popularly as the “Hews.”
Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xlv.:
We hed resolv't to straucht the mairch atween you an' Clinkstyle, clippin' aff that lang heugh an' the bit burnside fae him, an' pitten' 't tee to Gushetneuk.
Bnff. 1881 W. M. Philip K. MacIntosh's Scholars i.:
He's a daurin' nickam that — loupin' ditches and yetts, climbin' heughs to harry corbies' nests.
Abd.16 1944:
“D'ye see yon hyoch?” — pointing to a brae-face washed out by a stream and presenting a steep slope of red gravel.

2. A glen or ravine with steep overhanging sides (Lth., Borders 1808 Jam.). Gen.(exc. I.) Sc.s.Sc. 1847 H. S. Riddell Poems 11:
The lands, baith hill and heugh Belang a' to the guid Buccleuch.
Kcb. 1897 T. Murray Frae the Heather 144:
Mony a muckle wreath To melt in heugh or howe.
Sc. 1907 N. Munro Daft Days xxix.:
I cam' wi' the coach frae Maryfield, and my heart's in a palpitation wi' sic briengin' and bangin' ower heughs and hills.
Sc. 1923 A. Lang Poet. Works I. 29:
There's mony a water, great or sma', Gaes singing in his siller tune, Through glen and heugh, and hope and shaw.

3. The shaft of a pit or mine (Sc. 1808 Jam.); the steep face of a quarry or other excavation, also applied to the pit or quarry itself and used fig. (Lth. Ib.; Sc. 1886 J. Barrowman Mining Terms 36; Per., Lth., Ayr. 1915–26 Wilson; Ayr. 1957). Hence deriv. heughster, a miner (Sc. 1846 Anon. Muckomachy 11).Fif. 1707 E. Henderson Ann. Dunfermline (1879) 381:
The Counsell appoints the thesaurer to buy a good compass for the use of the heugh.
Rnf. 1742 Caldwell Papers (M.C.) I. 307:
Eight loads of coalls . . . from any of the neighbouring coall heughs.
Abd. 1750 Abd. Journal (20 March):
James Mansey, Millwright and Quarrier, in the Parish of Kineff, was digging for Mill-stones in a heugh.
Ayr. 1786 Burns Address to the Deil iii.:
An' tho' yon lowan heugh's thy hame, Thou travels far.
Sc. 1802 A. Campbell Journey from Edb. II. 48:
The coal heughs, or coal pits in the vicinity of Dysart.
Ayr. a.1851 A. Aitken Poems (1873) 18:
Frae the well we get water, frae the heugh we get fuel.
Ayr. 1912 G. Cunningham Verse 46:
When the hervest cam' roun', it was common eneuch For weemen, when men were awa' at the heuch, To be oot in the fields a' as busy as bees.

4. Phrs. and Combs.: (1) creeping heugh, a name formerly given to an open-cast coal-working, an ingaun ee; (2) heuchheid (Ags. 1894 F. Mackenzie Cruisie Sk. 103), h(e)ugh-he(a)d, the top of a cliff or precipice. Freq. as a place-name; (3) heugh dudds, pit clothes; (4) heughman, (a) a cragsman; (b) a miner; (5) kiln-heugh, see Kill, n.1; (6) to coup one o'er the heugh, to undo, ruin a person (n.Sc. 1825 Jam.); (7) to gae o'er the heugh, to come to disaster.(1) Slg. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XV. 330:
They used to make large excavations upon the surface, which they termed creeping heughs . . . the next stage of working was by sinking perpendicular pits, stiled windlass heughs.
(2) Sc. 1722 W. MacFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 298:
The passage of the hughhed a mile north of Abernathie is for both foot and horse.
Kcd. c.1800 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 50:
Steersman's acre on the heugh head is still called by that name.
Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xxvi.:
Gang away ane o' ye, hinnies, up to the heugh-head, and gie them a cry in case they're within hearing.
Abd. 1891 R. Kirk N. Sea Shore ii.:
So he wandered along the path that skirted the “heugh-head” to the south of the village.
(3) Clc. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 VIII. 35:
No one is allowed to appear before them in their “heugh dudds,” that is, in their pit clothes.
(4) (a) Kcd. 1808 Scots Mag. (July) 513:
The manner of taking the eggs and young fowls from the nest is very strange, and attended with a considerable degree of hazard. As the face of the rock is perpendicular, and washed at the foot by the sea, it is impossible to ascend it by ladders or otherwise. The Heughman is therefore obliged to descend from the top.
(b) Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 11:
The Dysart heughmen left their places O' darkness now.
Sc. 1846 Anon. Muckomachy 3:
Ye pleugh-men rude; Ye brugh-men good; Ye heugh-men girning like the deevil!
(6) Abd. 1768 A. Ross Helenore 86:
Says Lindy, father, this is hard enough, Against anes will to coup them o'er a heugh, With open eyn upo' the fearsome skaith.
(7) Abd. 1746 W. Forbes Dominie Deposed (1767) ii. lviii.:
Thirsh mony ane has touch'd the pleugh, Ash guid ash he, And yetch gane backlench o'er the heugh, Shae lat him be.

II. v. To earth up plants in drills, to trench (Per. 1916 Wilson L. Strathearn 253; Abd., m.Lth. 1957), to put plants in a temporary bed and pile earth about their roots (ne.Sc. 1949). Cf. Sheuch, of which this form may be a variant.

[O.Sc. ho(u)ch, heuch, hewch, etc., in place-names from a.1100, = 1. from c.1420, = 2. from c.1470, = 3. from 1434, and = 4. (2) from 1539; North.Mid.Eng. hogh, hill, O.E. hōh, heel, projecting ridge of land, promonotory, the same word as Hoch and Eng. place-name hoe. The pl. hews, O.Sc. howys, hewis, is the reg. development of O.E. pl. hōs( < *hōhas).]

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"Heuch n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 May 2024 <>



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