I have only ever heard this saying twice in my life, and both times it was from a Glaswegian. I’ve always figured that it meant that Fifers require more body space around them. For instance, when speaking to a Glaswegian, they often stand so close that your feet are practically touching each other, while in Fife, there is always a respectable distance between people, when standing talking on the street.
The reason we are posting this, is that we have completely added a new section to our Community Info & History page which is packed with history sourced from County Folk Lore VII, which was collected and written by Ewart Simpkins John, and is available for free from the Internet Archive.
We have cherry picked some of the best content to appear on this site and on each page provided a link to obtain the full book in PDF format. Some of the gems include a story writing by one of the earliest miners in the Lochgelly area; mining life, old sayings & superstitions, health, marriage, death, birth & infancy, proverbs, and health maxims.
Many of the old saying & superstitions, and proverbs, give an interesting insight into the thoughts of the people at the time, and oddly enough, some of the sayings are still in use today, while others are very archaic and no longer in use;
- He’s got the Fife complaint big feet and sair een. (An ” incomer’s ” saying regarding the Fifer, and naturally resented by him.)
- Why the Fife kye hinna got horns ; they lost them listenin’ at the Londoners’ (Lothian people’s) doors. (They were so astonished at the Lothian dialect that they rubbed off their horns in listening to it. N.B. The Fifers have an old dislike for the Loudoners.)
- Your e’e’s bigger than your belly (said to a greedy child).
- Go to Freuchie and fry mice ! (i.e. get away with you !).
- ” A hairy man’s a happy man or, a ‘ geary ‘ (wealthy) man ” ; a hairy wife’s a witch.”
- In folk-surgery, the bone-setter holds an accepted position. ” A’ body kens doctors ken naething aboot banes.” It is a matter of ” heirskep ” (heredity). The bone-setter’s father before him, or at least his grandfather, or at the very worst his aunt, possessed ” the touch,” as it is called, in their day and generation. “It rins in the bluid.”
- Breathing the smell of freshly-dug earth was held to be good for whooping-cough, and also for those who had been poisoned with bad air. A hole was dug in the ground and the patient ” breathed the air off it.” A ” divot ” of turf was sometimes in the old days cut and placed on the pillow.
- Children are passed under the belly of a donkey to cure whooping-cough. Riding on a donkey is supposed to be a prophylactic measure.
What is really interesting is the Health Maxims that were practised in those days, including bone setting, sayings related to health, and some common cures for illnesses, including;
This is just a snapshot of the text we have included, and we recommend viewing the pages (listed below) for an insight into what Fife was like all those years ago. It is quite a fascinating and insightful read for those that are interested in the local history of Lochgelly and Fife in general. All the pages provide a link to the PDF booklet which can be downloaded for free from the Internet Archive.