Obsolete Scottish units of measurement

Obsolete Scottish units of measurement

Several native systems of weights and measures were used in Scotland. Many of these bore the same name as England's Imperial units, or have been conflated with them. The origins of the systems are many, some being continental, some Norse, some Pictish, and some Gaelic.

Many of the measurement systems were standardised by the Parliament of Scotland in 1661, but were technically abolished in 1824 by an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and replaced with English units. Some of these continued in usage, informal or otherwise, well into the 20th century. Others, however, were not so long lived.

Length

  • Inch – 2.554 cm (slightly longer than an English inch)
  • Foot – 12 Scots inches, 30.65 cm
  • Ell – Elbow, 37 Scots inches, 94.50 cm
  • Fall/Faw – 18 Scots feet, 5.517 m (551.7 cm)
  • Mile, A Scottish mile was the same length as the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. (320 falls, 1814.2 m) This is about a tenth longer than an English mile, and is referred to by Robert Burns in Tam o' Shanter - "We think na on the lang Scots miles".

Area

A number of conflicting systems were used for area, sometimes bearing the same names in different regions, but working on different conversion rates. Because some of the systems were based on what land would produce, rather than the physical area, they are listed in their own section. Please see individual articles for more specific information. Because fertility varied widely, in many areas, production was considered a more practical measure.

Area by size

For information on the squared units, please see the appropriate articles in the length section

  • Square inch
  • Square ell
  • Square Fall/Faw
  • Rood
  • Acre

Area by production

In the East Highlands:

  • Oxgang (Damh-imir) = the area an ox could plough in a year (around 20 acres)
  • Ploughgate (?) = 8 oxgangs
  • Daugh (Dabhach) = 4 ploughgates

Area by taxation

In the West Highlands:

  • Groatland (a groat was a coin) - (Còta bàn) = basic unit
  • Pennyland (Peighinn) = 2 groatlands
  • Quarterland (Ceathramh) = 4 pennylands (8 groatlands)
  • Ounceland (Tir-unga) = 4 quarterlands (32 groatlands)
  • Markland (Marg-fhearann) = 8 Ouncelands (varied)
  • Farthingland (Feòirling) – equal to half a pennyland.

Volume

Dry volume

Dry volume measures were slightly different for various types of grain, but often bore the same name.

Fluid

Weight

Weight was measure according to "Troy Measure" (Lanark) and "Tron Measure" (Edinburgh), which were standardised in 1661. In the Troy system these often bore the same name as imperial measures.

  • Drop/drap
  • Ounce
  • Pound/Poon
  • Stone/Stane

Various local measures all existed, often using local weighing stones.

See also

References

  • Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland
  • Weights and Measures, by D. Richard Torrance, SAFHS, Edinburgh, 1996, ISBN 1-874722-09-9 (NB book focusses on Scottish weights and measures exclusively)
  • Scottish National Dictionary and Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue

External links

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