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End of days traditions revealed

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By Fiona Reid
Nostalgia
End of days traditions revealed

AN old proverb has emerged revealing how funerals were often lively affairs in the Dumfriesshire of old.

‘A Border burying is better than a Carlisle wedding’ refers to the custom of making funerals occasions of festivity and often of debauch.

Writing about it in 1863, A Craig Gibson describes this mindset as “the rule in all the rural parts of Scotland”.

He goes on: “It was due, no doubt, to two prominent characteristics of the Scots people.

“First, their disposition to make all gatherings of neighbours seasons of festivity; and, secondly, the national tendency to hospitality, impelling the friends of the deceased to entertain handsomely those assembled as their home, even for the saddest of all the offices of friendship.”

Meanwhile, writing in 1911, J Maxwell Wood shed more light on traditions surrounding death and dying in Dumfries and Galloway.

The author noted that the nearest relative bent down to the dying face to receive the last breath and the door was kept slightly ajar, so the spirit could escape.

Any mirrors in the room were covered with white cloth, clocks were stopped and work halted with the following days of enforced idleness known as the ‘dead days’.

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