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.

Various old proverbs and sayings from the Fife area.

  • A cauld hand and a warm heart.
  • A’ his Christianity is in the back-side o’ his breeks (said contemptuously of one whose professions do not match with his mode of life).
  • A hoose-de’il and a causey-saint.
  • An ill shearer never gets a gude heuk.
  • As the soo fills, the draff sours.
  • A scabbit heid’s aye in the way.
  • Auld age disna come its lane (i.e. other troubles come with it).
  • A woman’s wark’s never dune, an 1 she’s naethin’ to show for’t.
  • Betwixt the twa, as Da vie danced.
  • ” Ca’in’ awa’, Canny an’ pawkie,
  • Wi’ your ee on your wark an’ your pooch fu’ o’ baccy.” (An adage on the best way to work. Auchterderran.)
  • Daylicht has mony een.
  • Dinna hae the sau (salve) waitin’ on the sair (i.e. do not anticipate trouble) .
  • They’re queer folk no’ to be Falkland folk. (Possibly referring back to the days when foreigners were common at the palace.)
  • Fife. He’s Fifish.
  • He’s a foreigner frae Fife.
  • He’s a Fifer an’ worth the watchin’.
  • It taks a lang spune to sup wi’ a Fifer.
  • He’s got the Fife complaint big feet and sair een. (An ” incomer’s ” saying regarding the Fifer, and naturally resented by him.)
  • He’s got a gude haud o’ Fife (of a man with big feet).
  • As fly as the Fife kye, an’ they can knit stockins wi’ their horns.
  • 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.)
  • Fools and bairns shouldna see half-dune wark.
  • Freens ( = relations) gree best separate.
  • Go to Freuchie and fry mice ! (i.e. get away with you !).
  • He’s as fleshly as he’s godly (said of anyone laying claim to piety).
  • He has a gude neck (i.e. plenty of impudence. ” Sic a neck as ye ha’e! “).
  • He pits his meat in a gude skin (said of a healthy child with a good appetite).
  • He’s speirin’ the road to Cupar an’ kens it.
  • He’s speirin’ the road to Kinghorn and kens’ t to Pettycur (i.e. some distance farther on).
  • He’s ta’en a walk roond the cunnin’ stane.
  • I’d soom the dub for’t first (i.e. I would sooner cross the sea than do it).
  • It’s lang or the De’il dee at the dyke-side.
  • It taks a’ kinds to mak’ a warl’.
  • Just the auld hech-howe (i.e. the old routine).
  • Marry the wind an’ it’ll fa’.
  • Maun-dae (must do, i.e. necessity) is aye maisterfu’.
  • Seein’s believin’, but findin’ (feeling) ‘s the naked truth.
  • Sing afore breakfast, greet afore nicht.
  • Sodger clad but major-minded (i.e. poor but proud).
  • Spit in your e’e and choke ye.
  • That’s a fau’t that’s aye mendin’ (i.e. youth).
  • That beats cock-fechtin’.
  • The De’il’s aye gude to his ain.
  • The nearer the kirk, the faurer frae grace.
  • They’re no gude that beasts an’ bairns disna like.
  • Twa flittin’s (removals) is as bad as a fire.
  • When ye get auld ye get nirled.
  • [Whaur are ye gaun ?] ” I’m gaun to Auchtertool to flit a soo.” (Auchterderran. Said to impertinent enquirers. Auchtertool is a village in the neighbourhood about which there is a saying, and a song, ” There’s naught but starvation in Auld Auchtertool.”)
  • Ye canna be nice (particular) and needfu’ baith.
  • Ye dinna ken ye’re livin’ yet (said to a young girl making a moan over any pain or suffering) .
  • Ye’ll be a man afore your mither (jocose encouragement to little boys).
  • Ye maun just hing as ye grow. (It is often said of neglected children, ” they just get leave to hing as they grow. 1 ‘)
  • Your e’e’s bigger than your belly (said to a greedy child).
  • ” D’ye see onything green in my e’e ? ”
  • “I’m no’ sae green as I’m cabbage-looking.”
  • ” I’ll spit in your e’e an’ choke ye ! ”
  • ” Spit owre that ! ” Said with hand extended ; challenge to fight.
  • ” Coordie, Coordie, Custard ! ” To a coward.
  • ” Clypie, Clypie, Clashpans ! ” To a tell-tale.
  • A boy going to school in a kilt would be greeted with : ” Kilty, kilty cauld doup, Never had a warm doup ! ”
  • A child unduly proud of any article of dress would be humbled by the other children chanting : ” A farden watch, a bawbee chain, I wish my granny saw ye ! ”
  • Any one wearing a new suit of clothes is given a severe nip by his comrades. This is called ” the tailor’s nip’
  • A cat washing itself over its ears means wet weather.
  • Crows flying about confusedly, rising and falling in the air, means windy weather to follow.
  • ” A near hand bruch (halo round the moon) is a far awa* storm : a far awa bruch is a near hand storm.”
  • ” There’s somethin’ to come oot yet,” said when cold weather persists continuously, or ” There’s somethin’ ahint a’ this.”
  • ” It’s blawin’ through snaw.” Said of a cold wind.
  • ” It’s waitin’ for mair,” said of a persistent wreath of snow on a hill-top or hill-side.
  • A duck looking at the sky is said to be ” lookin’ for thunder.”
  • ” Rainin’ auld wives,” ” Rainin* cats and auld wives,” and ” Rainin’ auld wives and pipe stapples (pipe-stems) ” are all said of a heavy wind and rain storm (i.e. the kind of weather witches would be abroad in).
  • ” When mist comes frae the sea, Gude weather it’s to be, When mist comes frae the hill, Gude weather it’s to spill.”
  • ” Mist on the hills, weather spills, Mist on the howes, weather grows.”
  • (Of the/ position of clouds in the sky.) ” North and South, The sign o’ a drouth ; East and Wast, The sign o’ a blast.”
  • ” Clear in the South droons the plooman.”
  • ” It’s cauld ahint the sun ” (i.e. warm when the sun is out, but cold when it sets).
  • “If the oak afore the ash, Then we’re gaun to hae a splash ; If the ash afore the oak, Then we’re gaun to hae a soak.”
  • ” Rain in May maks the hay, Rain in June maks it broon, Rain in July maks it lie.”

County Folk Lore VII

Author: Ewart Simpkins John
Publisher: Sidgwick And Jackson Limited
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