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The Annals of Scottish Natural History
A quarterly magazine with which is incorporated "The Scottish Naturalist"

I came across this publication while looking for further information on an article about plants in which it mentioned this publication.  So doing my usual detective work I found copies of this and will now bring you one of these volumes each week until I exhaust my source.


THE completion of the first year and volume of the ANNALS OF SCOTTISH NATURAL HISTORY affords the Editors the opportunity of expressing their thanks to their Contributors and Subscribers for the kind reception and support which have been accorded to the Magazine. It is their earnest wish to make the Annals worthily represent the Zoology and Botany of Scotland, and they confidently appeal to all interested in these sciences to continue to aid their efforts by the contribution of Papers and Notes; and by bringing the Magazine under the favourable notice of all Naturalists who are not subscribers. They would remind their friends that all profits will be employed in the direct interests of the Annals.

It is hoped that the attention of the Editors will be called to any omissions that may from time to time be detected in the section devoted to Current Literature. There has been some difficulty in obtaining short Botanical notes during the year; but it is believed that the mere mention of the deficiency will bring about its remedy.


IN this, the first number of "The Annals of Scottish Natural History," a brief statement regarding the important part it is hoped the new magazine will fulfil in furthering the progress of Natural History in Scotland, may not be considered inappropriate.

Limited as our pages must be to original matter relating to the Biology of Scotland, Recent and Fossil, it is evident that they cannot and should not be devoted to general questions relating to minute anatomy and physiology, for such more fitly find a place in Journals and Transactions of less restricted scope. Nor are monographs of a purely systematic nature, dealing with subjects not strictly Scottish, suitable for our Magazine. Yet, despite these restrictions, the field of work is both wide and varied, and there should, indeed, be no lack of Papers and Notes of value and interest to our readers, and ample room for "The Annals" in the serial literature of British Natural History.

In ZOOLOGY there is yet much very much to be ascertained regarding the innumerable species of the various Classes of the Invertebrata inhabiting Scotland, and their distribution. Among the Mammalia generally supposed to be wellknown we may remark that two species of Bats are included in the Scottish fauna on the strength of sinogle specimens, and one of these was obtained as long ago as 1858. Some of the larger species of Carnivora are becoming very rare, and their occurrence in many districts is well worth placing on record. The visits of the less common Cetaceans and Pinnipeds are also fit subjects for communications to our pages. The life -history of several species of the Micro-Mammalia is still more or less enshrouded in mystery.

Among the Birds and Fishes classes possessed of remarkable powers of locomotion the occurrence of rare wanderers always affords material for interesting records: while the details of the migratory movements and distribution of many species are desiderata. Much useful work remains to be done towards the elucidation of the life-history of the Fishes.

In BOTANY it is scarcely needful to remind those who have followed the records of the subject in Scotland during the past twenty years, that much has been done in that time towards filling up the many gaps in the census of distribution of both flowering plants and cryptogams. The "Scottish Naturalist," the "Journal of Botany," and the Transactions of the various scientific societies of Scotland, all afford most valuable materials for the completion of a Topographical Botany of Scotland. Yet even in this field much remains to be done, especially among the Cryptogams; nor is there reason to fear lest soon there will be no more regions in Scotland to explore, or able botanists to pursue the work with zeal and success.

Not less interesting to the worker, and often more so to the reader, are certain branches of botanical study that have in the past received less notice among us, but which we trust will receive the attention in Scotland that they deserve, and which is given to them on the continent of Europe. The life histories of even our commonest wild plants have scarcely been studied here, with respect to their habits and behaviour under changed conditions, either in the wild state or when cultivated. That relations exist between insects and flowers is familiar to every one as a statement, and some may be more or less familiar with a part of the extensive literature on this subject; but how few such observations are on record from Scotland. A comparison of these relations as observed in Scotland with the records of naturalists in other countries could not fail to be interesting and instructive. The diseases of plants have been investigated by very few workers in Scotland, despite their practical importance, and the light they are certain to shed on the processes of disease in animals and in man. The Galls of Scotland have not by any means been exhausted even as regards their mere enumeration, and their distribution is very imperfectly known : while there is very much to be done in tracing their modes of formation and development. The Cryptogams, especially the Thallophytes, will long afford material for investigation sufficient to absorb the powers and opportunities of many botanists. The life histories of the Fungi and their relations to their environments, and to other living beings, can scarcely be said to be fully understood with regard to a single species. The popular names and folklore of plants in the various districts of Scotland deserve to be recorded ; if this is not speedily done the opportunity will be lost under the advancing wave of elementary school education.

Communications on such subjects as the above will be welcome; and any information that we can give with regard to subjects of investigation, books, etc., will be most willingly supplied. Queries for information, or for discussion, will be inserted when sent by our readers with that view. There will be a space for brief notes of observations, methods of preparing material for study, and for other topics likely to prove of interest to Botanists.

Papers and notes by specialists will give information with regard to groups or species of plants that should be looked for in Scotland as reputed to have occurred or as likely to occur in the country.

Of the FOSSIL FORMS, in both Zoology and Botany, many species remain to be discovered; many to be better understood through further investigation.

NEW BOOKS will be noticed or reviewed when they deal with the Natural History of Scotland, or are fitted to facilitate its study, or are necessary and useful to naturalists.

A short bibliography of CURRENT LITERATURE dealing with the Zoology and Botany of Scotland will be given. To render this as complete as possible the kind assistance of our readers is requested.

There now only remains the agreeable duty of offering hearty thanks for the kindly support and goodwill so freely shown by the naturalists of Scotland and England. Such a response is our best encouragement, and augurs well for the undertaking.

Volume 1 1892
Volume 2 1893
Volume 3 1894
Volume 4 1895
Volume 5 1896
Volume 6 1897
Volume 7 1898
Volume 8 1899
Volume 9 1900
Volume 10 1901
Volume 11 1902
Volume 12 1903
Volume 13 1904
Volume 14 1905
Volume 15 1906
Volume 16 1907
Volume 17 1908
Volume 18 1909
Volume 19 1910
Volume 20 1911

The Annals of Scottish Natural History
A Forgotten page of antiquairian lore by A. Macdonald, M.A.

The man in the field is familiar with the fact that a few trees left standing alone in the farmer’s lands usually indicate the spot where one of the numerous small holdings of former days had its centre and housing. After the last wall has been improved away, and when not a stone is left upon another, there frequently remains a mountain-ash or two, a common ash, a lilac, or a beech, to attest that near this spot there resided and wrought for the natural term of their lives several generations of horny-handed tillers of the soil.

Whether arising from a lost superstition, or from a deep-seated feeling of respect towards the past, there is usually enough of veneration in the heart of the present occupier to refrain from the removal of these ancient landmarks, which are at once suggestive and ornamental. In many districts, especially those in which there are now large farms, one may count half a dozen such sites on a single possession; and you can hardly traverse a mile of country without having your memory nudged by those living witnesses of other times:—

Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, And still where many a garden flower grows wild. There where a few tom shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher’s modest mansion rose.

It needs but a step or two, however, of the march of time to bear away those objective traces of the homes of our fathers; and then, though an agriculturalist can sometimes point you the spot where an excess of humus proves the existence of the kitchen garden, or, as its possessors would have more justly termed it, the “kail-yard,” of an ancestor six or eight times removed, there is for most people no trace of the homestead, nor sign to show that here or there poor toilworn cottars had their repose and reinvigoration for half a century or more.

The botanist, as he comes over the ground, can frequently tell, after every other observer has failed, that at this spot or at that there stood in bygone times the habitation of human beings. He picks out from the dyke side or the old pathway some plants which our forefathers valued either for food or for medicine. Possessing the power of reproducing their kind, and of planting their sons to reign in their stead for hundreds of generations, they await the time when the man of flowers comes to read their lessons, and to note that they were first sown here by folks long dead, whose sole memorials they now are.

Some herbs included in such a category might appear scarcely worthy of a place, but we must not forget how, with all other advances, the vegetable world has also taken forward strides. As a professor of botany remarked, "We can have little idea of the plants which our forefathers valued, so greatly has the gardener improved the original weeds.”

The Smear Dock {Chenopodium Bonus-Henricus} is one of the most common of such plants. There are still gardens in the outlying districts where you will find it sometimes within the walls, and sometimes, as if for more easy access, by the very door of the cottage. But here and there over the country, near some old turf wall or woodside, you come upon its broad healing leaf, which in former days was applied to many a work-sore, no doubt with good effect.

The picturesque Houseleek {Sempervivum tectorum), with its fringed leaves and spreading offsets, adorns the straw roof and clay walls of many a deserted home. Its cooling, succulent leaf is now left to fall to the ground.

Under this heading go Chamomile {Anthemis nobilis), Feverfew {Chrysanthemum Parthenium\ Tansy {Tanacetum vulgare), Mints {Mentha piperita, etc.), Horehound (Ballota nigra), which has been found about the grounds of Castle Fraser, and a long list of others.

One of the most suggestive localities for such finds is the extensive ruins of the Abbey o’ Deer, where several medicinal herbs still grow wild among the loose stones. What a living picture of the old monks these little herbs suggest. We can see them going about among the poor half-civilised people of Buchan, with simples for the cure of their bodily ailments, the pioneers of the medical as of several other faculties.

Nor is there wanting proof that fruits and flowers were cared for. The frequent occurrence of London Pride (Saxifraga umbrosa) Monkey-flower (Mimulus Langsdorffii)Lupine, etc., and of Red and Black Currants (Ribes rubrum and R. nigrum) fully attests this.

The name Gooseberry (Ribes Grossularia) suggests, according to De Candolle, that this fruit was first applied as a seasoning, and he compares the French name Grosseille a maquereaux (mackerel currant).

Under the heading of food-plants, a number of entries from old sites might be made.

The old songs, those crude literary remains of the past, contain many references to the food then used. We have the trite “Cauld Kail in Aberdeen and Castocks in Strathbogie,” of which, whatever may be the figurative meaning, the pimary application is clear enough. We often hear of “reefarts,” or “ryfarts” — radish, possibly Brassica Sinapis and “sybous,” young onions {Allium Cepa).

In “Scornful Nancy,” of unknown age and authorship, first printed by Ramsay in 1724, we have:—

“What ails ye at my dad,” quo’ he,
“My minnie, or my auntie?
Wi’ crowdy-mowdy they feed me,
Lang kail an’ ranty-tanty,
Wi’ chappit stocks fu’ buttered weel,
An’ isna that richt dainty?”

From this it appears that ranty-tanty, the broad-leaved Sorrel {Rumex Acetosa) was used as a pot-herb. That nettles were often made a meal of is well known, and doubtless both Urtica dioica and U. urens filled the pot. We have often wondered whether the frequent occurrence of U. urens on former house sites is an indication that they were planted. Near the railway station of Banchory this plant grows plentifully, just where the old records declare that the first village of Banchory-Ternan stood. You will also find it about the old town of Stonehaven, and the fishing villages of Cove, Collieston, etc.

Wild plants were also made into condiments and seasonings. There are farmhouses to be found where the old practice of using caraway seeds as a flavour exists, but there are very few places where they are now grown. It is more according to our ways to buy such things. On the historical estate of Tilquhillie, at Banchory, the roadside at one point near an old cottage has quite a hedge of Carum Carui growing along it for 20 yards, and its seed is used to flavour both cheese and oatcakes.

Myrrh (Myrrhis odorata) grows on many banks of our streams, always in places where there is reason to believe that it has escaped from cultivation. It may have been grown for its sweet juice and used as a sort of liquorice; but in some districts, at least, Sweet Cicely was made to serve the purpose of perfume for the more valued articles of cottage furniture.

Such are a few indications of what may be learned from an interesting subject, which appears to have been neglected hitherto.

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