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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII). Includes material from the 2005 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SHIELING, n. Also shielin, -en, sheal(l)ing, †schealling, sheelin(g), sheil(l)in(g), †shilin; ¶shielding. [′ʃilɪn]

1. A hut or rude shelter, a temporary house of stones, sods, etc., esp. one built for the accommodation of shepherds and dairy maids in the higher or more remote areas used as summer grazing ground for sheep and cattle, = Shiel, n., 1. (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen.Sc., hist., and in n.Eng. dial. Also attrib.Bnff. 1700 Rec. Bnff. (S.C.) 206:
Theiffeing pillffereing bracking of houses barns sheallings.
Sc. 1737 J. Drummond Memoirs Locheill (1842) 134:
Certain small hutts, which are everywhere to be mett with in the mountains, and are commonly knowen by the name of sheallings.
Arg. 1776 T. Pennant Tour I. 246:
Sheelins — the habitations of some peasants who attend the herds of milch cows.
s.Sc. 1800 A. Carlyle Autobiog. 110:
I was obliged to lodge in what they call a shieling, where I was used with great hospitality and uncommon politeness by a young farmer and his sister, who were then residing there, attending the milking of the ewes.
Sc. 1815 Scott Guy M. liii.:
Do you see that blackit and broken end of a sheeling?
Abd. 1828 P. Buchan Ballads II. 107:
When he came into the shielen, She hailed him courteouslie.
Highl. 1880 W. F. Skene Celtic Scot. III. 387:
The walls of the shealings in which the people live are of turf, the roof of sticks covererd with divots. There are usually two shealings together; the larger the dwelling, the smaller the dairy.
Kcd. 1894 Crockett Raiders xliii.:
The shieling was built against the rock.
Sc. 1901 Scotsman (12 Nov.) 8:
In the less substantial shielings the mere branches of birch, hazel, or alder, were used as a support for the covering of thatch.
Bwk. 1911 Lady J. Scott Songs 169:
My Minnie an' me, we bide in the shielin' Doun the glen, frae the Roman Ring.
wm.Sc. 1987 Anna Blair Scottish Tales (1990) 17:
The Sheriff of Banffshire who had outlawed the gypsy made new efforts to catch him for the added crime of sheep-lifting. Jamie was safe now only in the remotest shielings. Farmers, shepherds and cottars who welcomed him under their roof were warned not to harbour him and three times he found he was putting families in danger by taking shelter for himself and his men among them.

2. An upland or outfield pasture-ground to which sheep and cattle were driven from farms on the lower ground for the summer season and where their herds and attendants lived in temporary bothies (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Cai. 1904 E.D.D.). Gen.Sc., now hist. Also attrib.Arg. 1701 Lamont Papers (S.R.S.) 317:
The lands of Kilfinan, Kilmarnock and Bracklies, with the privilege of the sheilling and grazings on the lands of Glenfyne.
Sc. 1719 Acts Gen. Assembly 10:
In the Summer Time when the Parents are obliged to remove their Children from the Schools to their Sheilings for herding their Cattel, the Schoolmaster may be enjoined to travel to and fro amongst those Sheilings, and instruct the People.
Sc. 1752 J. Campbell Highl. Scot. 16:
During the Summer Season, when the Cows, Sheep, and Goats, who give Milk, are attended by a Woman or two on a spot of Green commodiously situated for Pasturage; this is called a Sheeling, where they have a Hut built on Purpose to shelter them and the Cattle.
Sth. 1774 J. Home Survey Assynt (S.H.S.) 43–4:
There are thirteen Sheeling places upon this Farm.
Per. 1799 J. Robertson Agric. Per. 339:
The shealings, that we have been speaking of, were for the most part set down in favoured situations, at the head of a small lake, on the banks of a river or at the confluence of brooks.
Slk. 1832 Trans. Highl. Soc. 292:
In all the high lying grassy farms, the occupiers had shielings for the summer tending of cattle.
Per. 1928 A. Stewart Highland Parish 191:
From the end of the eighteenth century the higher hill grazings were gradually converted into sheep farms and the sheiling custom began to disappear.
Highl. 1950 Scots Mag. (Jan.) 247:
The native peasantry, who every year went to the hills with their horses, sheep and cattle, and herded them on the shielings from May till the end of September.

[From Shiel, n. O.Sc. scalinga (Latin), a.1150.]

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"Shieling n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jun 2024 <>



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