The Bothy or Chaumer (Fairm)
by: Reid, Anne
The name depended on faur ye bade or fit size o a fairm ye were feed on. A chaumer wis a wee biggin or room, sometimes at the end o a steadin or next tae a wash hoose, or a room up abeen a stable or barn. In fac if it wis up abeen a stable or barn the bothy lad wid hae got the heat fae the horse or beasts. A chaumer didna hae a fire, an the single lads wad hae been fed in the fairm kitchen bi the kitchie deem. The chaumer or bothies wid hae been lined or wid jist hae been steen an lime waas. There wid hae been een or twa bothy lads on a sma fairm an they workit alang wi the fairmer.
The bothy wis a bigger affair wi een or twa rooms, an they wid hae held sax, acht, or ten men if it wis a big fairm. The big bothies were maist aften found in the Mearns or up Buchan wye, richt up tae Morayshire. The big bothies wid hae a fire faur the men wid hae made their ain maet. Geyn aften een o the younger lads wid hae haen tae dae it for them aa. They hid gey simple maet, in fac it wis aften kent they hid brose for their brakfest denner an tea an fan they were askit if they niver got fed up o brose they wid say 'Foo cwid ye get fed up o yer maet?'
Pairt o their wages wis their oatmeal, tatties an milk, an they wid hae eekit oot at wi bred (oatcakes) or a half loaf fae the baker man that cam tae the fairms. Sometimes they wid hae caught a rabbit fur stew. They also got sticks, peat or coal as pairt o their pey. Sometimes fin the brose wis made it wid hae been pit in the big bowl an they wid aa hae suppit oot o the same bowl. Naebody wid hae suppit afore the foreman.
In the bothies the lads wad hae sleepit in widden box type beds wi straw mattresses an a caff bed on tap which wis awfa fine fin it wis newly filled bit it nought a fluff up efter a file. They hid a sheet an wiven blunkets. The lads wad hae sleepit in their drawers an sarks. The bothy wad hae a paraffin lamp an wid hae been warm aneuch wi the fire on. Each bothy lad wid hae their ain kist at wid hae held their ain belangins which wid be flittit wi them if they got a fee at anither fairm. In their kist wid hae been a change o claes a pair o Sunday beets as weel as their workin beets which wid hae been tackety for hard weerin. They hid a cut throat razor for shavin gear, collar stud, socks, mirror, claes an shoe brushes an ony ither personal thing. They aften hid cigarette cairds or a hairst maiden (corn dolly) stuck inside the lid o their kists. Their gweed claes wid hae hung up on a nail or peg in the bothy. Fan they got their wikken aff they gaed hame ilky fortnicht or month. They left their fool claes an cam back haim in their clean claes.
In weet wither or fin they were daein a fool job, the lads wid hae wrappit gwanna (hessian) bags roon the bottom o their breeks tae try an keep their legs dry an they hid tae dry their beets at nicht or ging oot in the mornin wi weet feet. They hid a gey bare existence in the cauld, weet wither, tryin tae get their claes dry afore mornin. Also in the bothy wid hae been a chair or form, a trestle table, an a meal girnal or kist tae haud the oatmeal. Brose wis made wi a puckley meal, some saat, an bilin water, poort on an steert. Ilky lad wad hae their ain brose caup (widden) an a horn speen.
The bothy lads were up aboot 5 o clock, an if they were horsemen they fed their horse first afore they got their ain brakfest. They gaed oot tae their jobs until eleven o clock an fed an wattert their horse afore they ate themsels. They usually got twa oors at denner trime so that the horse got a rest fae the hard work. At sax o clock the same happened, the horse got fed first, then the men. At nicht the horsemen sortit an cleaned the harness an beddit the horse afore they got beddit themsels. The rest o the men hid aa their ain jobs, like brakin sods, caain muck or spreadin, threshin, pooin neeps etc
Usually in a biggish fairm there wid hae been a grieve, een or twa baillies 1st horseman, 2nd horseman, 3rd horseman, 4th horseman, an orra man. The wages were aboot £6.00 - £7.00 annually in the 1800s, £10.00- £12.00 up tae the 1st Wold War, then they rose tae aboot £30.40 aifter the war in the 1900s. The men also hid tae tak the horse tae be shod an hid tae help neebors at certain times, like threshin. Sunday work wis froont on except for essentials like milkin kye or feedin beasts an horse.
The bothies were cleant oot by the kitchie deems fan the men were oot workin in the fields as the fairmers didna like them tae mix, bit it didna aye work oot like that. Fan the bothy lads got mairriet they would hae moved in tae a cottar hoose on the same fairm or lookit for a fee at anither place. They also got tatties, milk, or meal, sticks or peats an they could keep a puckle hens. The wife aften got a job on the fairm. The bothy lads haed tae mak their ain entertainment. They wid hae played cards, dominoes, or damrod (draughts)an they also played music on a moothie fiddle or melodeon or sometimes a gramaphone. They made up sangs aboot life on a fairm or aboot the fairmer an his wife or the horse or their jobs. These sangs were aften used tae warn ither bothy lads if the fairm wis a good place tae work or if it wis bare maetit etc , an are kent as bothy ballads noo.
The lads wid hae bikit or wakkit tae a neeborin place tae hae a get thegither in their bothy. There wad hae been a dance at the nearest village hall an they wid hae bikit or wakkit tilt an back again. They wid hae got a People's Journal at the weekeyn. In fac, ae lad went tae the local shop ae wik an said 'Ye'ed better gae me twa People's Journals the day as I'm toon keeper this wikkeyn' (meanin it wis his wikeyn on). The fairm wis aye caad a toon, an the fairmer wis geyn aften caad efter his ain place, like Hilly if his place wis caad Hillside or Widdies if it wis Woodside etc. The feein market wis fan the men gaed tae look for a job or the fairmer gaed tae look for men. The men got arles or a few shillins fae the fairmer fan he wis taen on.