British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Dec. 31.]                     new year's eve.                               507
season of year of their celebration, and of their various religious forms.—N. & Q. 2nd S. vol. ix. p. 322.
In the village of Burghead, situated on the southern shore of the Moray Frith, about nine miles from Elgin, the county town of Morayshire, the following curious custom is observed :
On the evening of the last day of December (Old Style), the youths of the village assemble about dusk, and make the necessary preparations for the celebration of the " Clavie." Proceeding to some shop they demand a strong empty barrel, which is usually given at once, but if refused taken by force. Another for breaking up, and a quantity of tar are likewise procured at the same time. Thus furnished they repair to a particular spot close to the sea-shore, and commence opera­tions. A hole about four inches in diameter is first made in the bottom of the stronger barrel, into which the end of a stone pole, five feet in length, is firmly fixed: to strengthen their hold a number of supports are nailed round the outside of the former, and also closely round the latter. The tar is then put into the barrel, and set on fire, and the remaining one being broken up, stave after stave is thrown in until it is quite full. The " Clavie," already burning fiercely, is now shouldered by some strong man, and borne away at a rapid pace. As soon as the bearer gives signs of exhaustion, another willingly takes his place; and should any of those who are honoured to carry the blazing load meet with an accident, as sometimes happens, the misfortune incites no pity even among his near relatives. In making the circuit of the village they are said to confine themselves to its old bounda­ries. Formerly, the procession visited all the fishing-boats, but this has been discontinued for some time. Having gone over the appointed ground, the " Clavie " is finally carried to a small artificial eminence near the point of the promontory, and interesting as being a portion of the ancient fortifications, spared probably on account of its being used for this purpose, where a circular heap of stones used to be hastily piled up, in the hollow centre of which the " Clavie " was placed still burning. On this eminence, which is termed the " durie,"
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