County Folk Lore is a collection of stories written by Ewart Simpkins John in 1914, and is released for free on The book explores the different uses of the social sciences, and we have selected the specific chapters that highlights life, old sayings and superstitions from around the Fife area and specifically in Lochgelly.

A cock crowing, an owl hooting, or a dog howling at night, are all signs of death.

If a corpse keeps soft and does not stiffen, there will be another death in the family within a year.

If two deaths occur in the place, a third will follow. This is a very common belief. The brother of a man who was seriously ill accompanied me to the door on one occasion and said, ” I’ve sma’ hopes o’ him mysel’, doctor ; there’s been twa deaths in the parish this week, and we’re waitin’ the third.” The patient nevertheless recovered.

The clock is stopped at death ; the mirrors are covered, sometimes also the face of the clock ; and a white cloth is pinned up over the lower half of the window (Auchterderran).

Cats are not permitted in a room where there is a dead body, owing to the belief that if a cat jumped over the corpse, anyone who saw the cat afterwards would become blind (Auchterderran).

A saucer with salt is sometimes placed on the chest of the corpse (this is not a general custom). Pennies are laid on the eyelids to keep them shut, and the falling of the jaw is prevented by propping up with a Bible.

The presence of the minister at the ” chestin’ ” (coffining) is still quite common in Fife. This is the outcome of Acts of Parliament in 1694 an d 1705* which enjoined the presence of an elder or deacon to see that the corpse was clothed, in the former case in linen, in the latter in woollen garments.

County Folk Lore VII

Author: Ewart Simpkins John
Publisher: Sidgwick And Jackson Limited
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