Document 546

The Fower Quarters: 01 - Introduction

Author(s): Sheena Blackhall

Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall


The fictional stories in this volume are grouped loosely around the old Scottish quarter days, representing the fourfold vision of the year and marking the transition from one season to the next. The quarter days were also the dates when rents were paid and when farm workers were hired for a term or discharged. Their origins lie far back in pre-Christian times.

Candlemas Day (February 2) became the Feast of the Purification of the Virgins under Pope Sergius I (687-701 CE) and on that day the candles for the subsequent year were solemnly consecrated. In Classical times women bore lighted candles through the streets in commemoration of Ceres searching Hades for her daughter Persephone. In Celtic mythology, the beginning of February marked the spring festival of St Bride, patron saint of poetry, blacksmiths, healing and the hearth. One legend recounts how Bride was imprisoned throughout winter in Ben Nevis until her rescue by Aengus of the Milk-White Steed. Another describes winter as an old Cailleach who returned to die on the Island of Youth, being reborn as the virgin Bride, at whose touch the dun grass is revived and the white flowers of early spring appear. At Candlemas too, the adder was said to terminate its hibernation and to slough its old skin, thereby symbolising the annual renewal of nature.

Whitsun (May 8) links the Christian Pentecost to the pagan feast of Beltane and marks the beginning of summer, when the sidhe (fairy folk) were abroad in the countryside. Houses were decorated with rowan branches and people made their visits to clootie wells. The Beltane bannock and other offerings were made to propitiate the destructive forces of nature and to guard against predation by wild beasts, with the incantation: This I give to thee, O Fox; preserve my lambs. This I give to thee, O Hoodie Craw. Symbolised by the swan, Whitsun (May Day) marked the time when young lovers plighted their troth and looked forward to the fruitful marriage, just as their elders hoped for an abundant harvest of fruit and grain.

Lammas (in Old English, loaf-mass) saw harvest and the giving of the first fruits in thankfulness to the deity, whether Christian or Pagan. In Celtic mythology the harvest festival is dedicated to the God Lugh, in whose honour great horse-racing gathering (and later the annual fairs) were held. It was a time of omens, as people looked forward with apprehension to the declining year:

Flee ower frith, an flee ower fell;
Flee ower puil and rinnin well;
Flee ower muir, and flee ower mead;
Flee ower leevin, flee ower deid;
Flee ower corn, an flee ower leas;
Flee ower river, flee ower sea;
Flee ye tae east, an flee ye tae west;
Flee ye tae her that ye lue the best.

Martinmas Day (November 11) marked the start of winter. The feast of St Martin in the Christian calendar, it paralleled the Celtic festival of Samhuinn, a time of remembrance for the dead:

This nicht is Halla-een, the morn is Halla-day
Nine free nichts till Martinmas, an sune they'll wear away. (Trad.)

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The Fower Quarters: 01 - Introduction. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 12 April 2024, from

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"The Fower Quarters: 01 - Introduction." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 12 April 2024.

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "The Fower Quarters: 01 - Introduction," accessed 12 April 2024,

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The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 546

The Fower Quarters: 01 - Introduction


Text audience

General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 523

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher GKB Enterprises
Publication year 2002
Place of publication Aberdeen
ISBN/ISSN 0952655462
Part of larger text
Contained in The Fower Quarters: Tales by Sheena Blackhall

Text type

Prose: nonfiction
Other Introduction to collection of short stories and poems


Author details

Author id 112
Forenames Sheena
Surname Blackhall
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up Protestant, now Buddhist
Occupation Writer and supply teacher
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Aberdeen
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Manager of Deeside Omnibus Service
Father's place of birth Aboyne
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Private Secretary
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes Elementary. Gaelic choir. Poetry.
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes