Frae: R. De Bruce Trotter, Galloway Gossip (1901), pp. 123-124

XERXES an his Chaldeans couldna ‘a’ hadden the cannel tae a Gallawa Spaewife.

There use’t tae be lots o’ cantraips cairry’t on for curin orra bits o’ troubles an complents, an the mair mirac’lous they wur, the mair faith folk had in them; joost the wey the English, an the Scotch too whiles, haes in Quack Pills an ither adverteese’t rubbish, noo-a-days.

In every parish there wud be twa or three aul’ wifes yt made a kin’ o’ leevin wi chairms an cantraips, an seelin love poothers, an finnin thiefs, an things yt wus lost, an spaein fortins, an readin the tea-cups, an things o’ that kin’.

They wur maistly puir aul’ forsaken craiters, yt had never gotten a man maybe, or widdas yt had nae sons tae keep them, or maybe their sons’ wifes an them didna get on, or maybe they had nae dochters, or their sons wusna weel-doin, or something.

They wur maistly buddies wi a wee bit o’ honest pride, yt wudna let them gie in tae get aff the Session; an ye ken whun a buddy’s aul’ an puir an desertit, an haesna onyyin tae look tae, an canna thole the notion o’ charity – whut ir they tae do? They maun dae something, or thanse dee o’ hunger. They canna work, they wunna steal, an they’ll no beg. Maybe somebuddy gies them something for curin an unweel wean, or takin the warts aff the lass’s fingers, or healin chilblains, or a something, an that sets them on.

Whiles they wud keep Gills, an wud bluid onybuddy yt needit it, or wus order’t by the doctor tae hae’t dune, an maybe that wud gie them a start, an it wud grow frae yae thing till another, till in coorse o’ time they wud get inta regular business as a Wutch, or a Spaewife, or a Gillwife, or maybe a Howdy. Deed, some o’ them wus real usefu that wey, an naebuddy lookit doon on them acuase the folk ca’t them Wutches.

Some o’ them wus thocht tae hae dealins wi the Deil, an folk didna care muckle for them, but the ither yins wus joost as muckel thocht o’ as onybuddy else. A may mention yin or twa o’ their cures-



Partial Glossar

Definitions frae DSL (links are tae the relevant entries).

  • Spae ‘To prophesy, foretell, predict, tell (fortunes).’ [SPAE]
  • Cantraip ‘A charm, spell, incantation; magic.’ [CANTRIP]
  • Orra ‘Occasional, coming at irregular or infrequent intervals, appearing here and there.’ [ORRA]
  • Whiles ‘Sometimes, at times, occasionally.’ [WHILES]
  • Poother ‘Pouder.’ [POUTHER]
  • Craiter ‘Creature.’ [CRATER]
  • Buddy ‘A human being, a person.’ [BODY]
  • Thole ‘To suffer, undergo (pain, grief, vexation, etc.), to be subjected to or afflicted with, to have to bear or endure.’ [THOLE]
  • Maun ‘Must.’ [MAUN]
  • Thanse ‘Else.’ [THAN]
  • Wean ‘A child.’ [WEAN]
  • Gill ‘A leech.’ [GELL]
  • Howdy ‘A midwife, formerly applied to an untrained woman who also performed other kinds of sick nursing.’ [HOWDIE]