Monday, 15 December 2014

Place Rivalries (Part One)

In the days before mechanised transport, when travel was difficult, the nearest rural communities often rubbed each other up the wrong way.  Part of this was economic competition, but the inbred suspicion of strangers, albeit strangers who lived just over the next hill or a few fields away seems to have been deep seated.  Most of the rivalries between small towns and villages have been long forgotten, so it is hard to judge now how jocular or serious these rivalries were generations ago.  The Rev W, Mason Inglis gives a light hearted example of friendly rivalry between the parish of Auchterhouse and its neighbour Tealing in An Angus Parish in the Eighteenth Century (1904).  When an Auchterhouse man suggested that it only took an S before is neighbour's parish name to turn it into something slanderous, his friend pointed out that SL before the name Auchterhouse would similarly transform it!
   One verse, attributed to the seer True Thomas hints at destruction due to several times and suggests he was more favourable to some places in Angus more than others:

                                  Bonny Montrose will be a moss;
                                  Dundee will be dung doun;
                                  Forfar will be Forfar still;
                                  And Brechin a braw burrows-toun [burgh town].

   Fishing communities in Angus maintained a healthy disdain for each other, obviously inspired by competition for catches.  When Broughty Ferry was still a fisher toun the people there took umbrage at their easterly neighbours in East and West Haven regularly raiding their mussel beds in Monifieth:

                                  East Ha'en stinkers
                                  and West Ha'en gull maws
                                  come and sweep our sand awa.

   Further up the coast, there is Fishtown of Usan, now a deserted ghost village.  The people there maintained a rivalry with their northerly neighbours in Ferryden, with Usan residents calling them assertive and grasping.  Ferryden folk in turn accused Usan villagers of being canny and dull witted.
   Bigger communities were no less petty in their attitudes.  Brechin was rarely on good terns with Montrose and was also an enemy of Forfar.  Montrose people were (perhaps scornfully) termed Gable Enders (or Endies) because many of their old houses were built side-on to the street.  Brechiners were derided as Creeshy Wyvers (Greasy Weavers) because of their staple hand loom industry.  When Brechin folk resorted to the country, local folk would rush out to gather in their washing from the line, with a warning cry to neighbours:

                                  Tak in yer sarks, guidwives, for here come the Brechiners!

   The implication that people from Brechin were prone to theft has never been satisfactorily proven.
   Enmity between Brechin and Montrose dates back at least to the thirteenth century when Montrose had a monopoly on local trade, so Brechiners had to travel to its market.  In 1396  Brechin set up its own market cross, but the Sheriff of Angus promptly knocked down this symbol of economic independence.
   Brechin got its own back on Montrose with a dig at the often foul smelling tidal basin:

                                 Here's the basin, there's Montrose,
                                 Shut yer e'en an haud yer nose.

   When some men from Brechin and Montrose met together once, one of the latter made a disparaging remark about Brechin.  A Brechiner angrily asked the man:  'Do you mean, sir, that there are nae honest men in Brechin?'
   The man replied:  'Weel, sir, I'll no be sayin that...but it's michty far atween their doors.'

   Whether or not this resulted in a pitched battle is not recorded.

                                                                 Montrose Basin

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