Communal Porridge – January 1909

In an English daily newspaper recently I read of a young man who had given up a situation on a Morayshire farm because his employer expected him to take porridge and milk out of a large basin from which several other servants of both sexes supped at the same time…

This was once the general practice in most countryside districts in Scotland but it has long since died out even as far north as agricultural Aberdeenshire.

I have a particular recollection of a prolonged stay in some Ayrshire farm houses exactly 20 years ago when the porridge was dished to the servants in one large basin at one house and in two at another and the milk in two smaller bowls. At the last dinner course (of scone and milk) there were again two bowls of milk into which several at each end of the table dipped their horn spoons.

Customs were changing even then for I remember hearing one mistress say that her servants expected plates to dinner and certain neighbours were laying out forks and knives at theirs.

It was on the same visit of 20 years ago that I heard some servants talking of a neighbouring farm where they were going to help at hairst for a few days. They were complaining of a certain person — probably a servant at this other place. They hated to sup broth with him because “he aye clautit at a’ the peas with his spune.” That conjures up a picture of all the workers sitting round a huge bowl of broth and each doing the best for himself.

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