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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

MARY, n. Also mar(r)ie; mair-, mari-, merry. The female personal name.

1. In Sc. Combs. and Phrs., freq. with special reference to the Virgin: (1) maryblades, the costmary, Chrysanthemum balsamita. See Blade; (2) mary-fish, the shellfish, Tapes pullastra (Arg.1 1931); (3) Marymas(s), -mess, Marimass, mairmas, Marmess (Jak.; Cai.), (i) Lady Day, 25th March (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928)); (ii) the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary held on 15th August (Old Style). Hence Marymas Fair, a fair traditionally held on Marymas (Ayr. 1962); Marymas races, horse races which formed a prominent part of the festivities of Marymas in Irvine; Marymas reesle, a drying wind which usually occurs about Marymas (Cai. 1962). See quot.; ¶(4) mary mild, variant of Mairyguld, marigold; (5) Mary shell, marishell, -shall (Jak.), the pellucid limpet, Patina pellucida (Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928); Ork. 1954 Ork. Miscellany II. 56). Cf. (2); (6) Mary-sole, merry-, the smear dab or lemon sole, Microstomus kitt (Sc. 1880–4 F. Day Fishes II. 29; ne.Sc. 1903 G. Sim Fauna ofDee” 246, merry-sole); (7) to tie with St. Mary('s) knot, appar. to tie with a triple knot, presumably in the name of Mary, so as to make it impossible to undo (Sc. 1889 Child Ballads III. 462 note: “A St John's knot is double, a St Mary's triple.”). The alternative explanation that it means to hamstring is not borne out by the continuation of the story. See however Watson W.-B. for St John and St Mary nut and Saint. (1) Bnff. 1881 W. M. Philip Kirsty MacIntosh's Scholars iii.:
The “southernwood”, and “maryblades” seem to be cultivated by the country people . . . to carry with them to church on Sundays and employ as an antidote against sleep.
(2) Bte. 1820 J. Blain Hist. Bute (1880) 70:
In the bay near are found abundance of mussels, cockles, razor-fish, mary-fish, and other bivalves.
(3) (ii) Abd. 1706 T. Mair Ellon Par. Rec. (1876) 151:
All mercates and yearly free fairs, specially Rude fair and Marymes.
Cai. 1726 W. McFarlane Geog. Coll. (S.H.S.) I. 170:
Petermass fair holds June 29th, and Marymass August the 15th [at Thurso].
Ayr. 1823 Galt R. Gilhaize I. xiv.:
My Lord himsel', at last Marymas, when he sent for me to make a hoop to mend her leg.
Ayr. 1866 Kilmarnock Standard (1 Sept.) 3:
Marymass Races. These races came off at Irvine Moor on Saturday last.
Cai. 1928 John o' Groat Jnl. (17 Feb.):
Isna hid true fat 'e Harpsdale man said fan he got hame fae 'e Dinnad Mair'mas.
Cai. 1935 Abd. Press & Jnl. (5 Sept.):
True to time the “Marymas Reesle”, which for uncounted generations has been looked forward to by farmers and fishermen to bring, during the last week of August, a ruffle among the corn and a “jabble” in the sea, has appeared.
Ayr. 1938 A. F. McJannet Irvine 328:
When the church of Irvine was founded and dedicated to Our Lady the Virgin Mary, the feast of dedication was observed on 15th August, the day set apart in the Roman calendar for commemorating her feast of Assumption . . . hence Marymess Fair or Marymass Fair.
Ayr. 1953 Sunday Times (15 Aug.):
The Marymass races are the oldest race meeting in existence . . . Except for one or two modest plate events, most of the races are confined to cart-horses, plough horses, and other honest creatures who have to fulfil some such condition as “must be the bona-fide property of Brothered Carters and have regularly carted in town or halfway or within a radius of 30 miles”.
Ayr. 1991:
Marymass [festival in Irvine - 3rd Saturday after the 1st Monday in August]
Ayr. 1992 Sheila Douglas ed. The Sang's the Thing: Voices from Lowland Scotland 31:
'We went up to Marymass Fair [in Irvine, in August] one Saturday nicht. Och, we just couldnae get in anywhere an there were nae sessions gaun on then. ... Harry says, "That's a hell of a way to run a festival, wi nae sessions. I think we'll run wir own." So with our respective wives, we formed a committee and started the Girvan Folk Festival. That would be 1975.
Sc. 1997 Scotsman 9 Aug 19:
The Marymas Fair takes place today in Inverness. Events start at 10:30am with a procession from the cathedral car park which culminates at the Inverness Town House with the crowning of the Marymas Queen.
Sc. 2001 Press and Journal 9 Jun 4:
The incoming Marymas Queen, 14-year-old Hanna McLaughlan, who will be crowned at the Marymas Fair in August, will officially open the mini-Highland games in the Bught Park, on July 20.
Sc. 2003 Independent 2 Jul 7:
Key events include the Highland Festival, Highland Games (19 July), Inverness Tattoo (end of July), Marymas Fair, a piping competition, and a food and drink festival.
Sc. 2004 Press and Journal 16 Aug 3:
Marymas Queen Inverness Royal Academy pupil Lisa MacKenzie was crowned this year's Marymas Queen in glorious sunshine outside the Town House in Inverness on Saturday. Dressed in the costume of the 1560s, the Queen and her attendants depict the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her four-ladies-in-waiting - all called Mary. The coronation, carried out by city provost Bill Smith after the queen and her attendants had travelled from Inverness Cathedral to the town house in horse-drawn carriages, heralded the start of the Marymas Medieval Fair at the Northern Meeting Park.
(4) Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 189:
Your shoes shall be o' the gude rue red, . . . Your stockings o' the mary mild.
(7) s.Sc. 1775 Dick o' the Cow in Child Ballads No. 185 A. xxvii.:
He has ty'd them a' with St Mary knot, All these horse but barely three.

2. A lady's maid, a female attendant; a maid of honour. Mainly poet. There is no evidence to substantiate the statement in 1896 quot.Sc. c.1800 Johnie Scot in Child Ballads (1956) IV. 486:
The queen and all [her] gay marries.
Cld. 1820 Scots Mag. (May) 424:
An' twice twae hunder maries free Sall serve my winsome may.
Sc. 1822 Baron of Brackley in Child Ballads No. 203 A. 14:
She called on her marys, they cam to her hand, Cries, Bring me your rocks, lassies, we will them command.
Abd. 1832 A. Beattie Poems 157:
When he alighted, his first care is To kiss the bride and a' her maries.
Sc. 1896 A. Cheviot Proverbs 19:
Queen Mary of Scotland made it a custom to have four Marys as her ladies of honour, until at last it became a common phrase to speak of a favourite waiting woman as a Mary.

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"Mary n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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