NEFA - The North East Folklore Archive

Life In A Bothy

"If you had looked into the bothy you would have seen kists set out against the walls and bicycles in a recess at the foot of the bed. Sunday suits, shirts and long woollen drawers hung from nails on either side of the windows. Boots, ranging from stylish browns for Sunday to great tackety boots, all glaur and dung, huddled beneath the beds." John R. Allan "Farmer's Boy."


The single men lived in a bothy or chaumer, a one roomed building often attached to the cattle byre or the stable. Peats were burned on an open fire to heat the rooms and to cook the meals. It would still be sometime before mains electricity reached the farms and light was provided by oil lamps and candles.

Workers slept in box beds with a “chaff” (chopped up straw) mattress, often two to a bed. The senior men slept nearest the fire! Next to the beds would be a wooden "kist" (chest) in which the men kept all their possessions. These were easy to shift if the men moved on to another "fee" (went to work on a different farm).


There was no running water and enamel jugs and basins or tin baths were used for washing. The men hung their clothes from nails in the wall. They washed their clothes in tin basins, or outside at the water pump. They would get their meals in the farmhouse. Porridge or brose was eaten often for breakfast and supper.

bothy loons at supper time

Bothy loons at supper time.


Bothy Nichts

Farm workers often visited each other in the bothies and spend evenings playing music, telling stories and singing. This was where the Bothy Ballads originated, songs composed by the workers often about the places and people they knew or maybe an event, such as a ploughing match, they had taken part in.

A great deal can be learned about the farm worker’s lives by listening to these songs.

Listen to this Bothy song:

listen hereBarnyards O' Delgaty - Ugie Folk Club Band

It tells the tale of a horseman who was fee'd to at Turra (Turriff) Market to work at a farm just north of the town. Because the words were rarely written down different versions could be heard from different singers. This is one of the more popular versions of the song:

As I cam' in by Netherdale,
At Turra market for to fee,
I fell in wi' a cannie chiel,
Fae the Barnyards o' Delgaty.

Chorus :
Linten adie, toorin adie,
Linten adie, toorin ae,
Linten lourin, lourin, lourin,
Linten lourin,lourin lee.

He promised me the ae best pair
I ever set my e'en upon,
Fin I gaed hame to barnyards,
There was nithin there but skin and bone!

The auld black horse sat on his rump,
The auld white meer lay on her wime,
And a' that I could hup and crack,
They widna rise at yokin' time.

Meg MacPherson mak's my brose,
An' her an' me canna 'gree,
First a mote and then a knot
And aye the ither jilp o' bree.

Fin I ging to the Kirk on Sunday,
Mony's the bonnie lassie I see,
Prim, sittin' by her daddy's side,
And winkin' ower the pews at me.

I can drink an' nae be drunk,
I can faicht an' nae be slain,
I can court anither's lass,
An' aye be welcome to my ain.

My can'le noo it is brunt oot,
The snotter's fairly on the wane,
Sae fare ye weel, ye Barnyards,
Ye'll never catch me here again!



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