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Appendix 14.

Appendix 14.

Jamieson in his Scottish Dictionary s.v. neid-fire gives a very similar account of what took place it would seem as late as 1788:

‘In those days [1788] when the stock of any considerable farmer was seized with the murrain he would send for one of the charm-doctors to superintend the raising of a need-fire. It was done by friction thus: Upon any small island where the stream of a river or burn ran on each side a circular booth was erected of stone and turf (barhis) as it could be had in which a semicircular or highland couple of birch or other hard wood was set; and in short a roof closed on it. A straight pole was set up in the centre of this building the upper end fixed by a wooden pin to the top of the couple and the lower end in an oblong trink in the earth or floor; and lastly another pole was set across horizontally having both ends tapered one end of which was supported in a hole in the side of the perpendicular pole and the other end in a similar hole in the couple leg. The horizontal stick was called the auger having four short arms or levers fixed in its centre to work it by; the building having been thus finished as many men as could be collected in the vicinity (being divested of all kinds of metal in their clothes &c.) would set to work with the said auger two after two constantly turning it round by the arms or levers and others occasionally driving wedges of wood or stone behind the lower end of the upright pole so as to press it the more on the end of the auger: by this constant friction and pressure the ends of the auger would take fire from which a fire would be instantly kindled and thus the need-fire would be accomplished. The fire in the farmer's house &c. was immediately quenched with water a fire kindled from this need-fire both in the farmhouse and offices and the cattle brought to feel the smoke of this new and sacred fire which preserved them from the murrain. So much for superstition.’

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