Gleanings from the Gleanings!

FoDH book “Gleanings from a Duff House Gardener’s Diary” was launched on Sat 27th Aug 2022 at the Vinery gala, celebrating it’s re-opening after a wonderful refurbishment.  We have been delighted that so many people have gone through this substantive book and would like to thank them for their feedback.  Refer to the Publications page of this website  as to where to get your copy!

The book is based on the diary written by John Donaldson, just 17 years old when he started his gardening career at Duff House, working in what is today Airlie Gardens, the Vinery as well as The Orchard.  The book transcribes the Diary and on the facing page gives explanations of many of the events and incidents that John refers to, giving an insight into life on a large estate and the town of Banff and area in 1873-4.

The book sort of invites contributions from readers, as words from the Diary highlighted in pink, are those that we were unable to gain an understanding of.  We are most grateful to those that have responded to that invitation, adding to the store of knowledge.  Extra words now understood include:

  • WARDINE”  on 18th Feb 1874, Bannock Night, John “was away with some more out in the country, landed at Wardine.  Had some dancing and very few Bannocks”.  Wardine was clearly a place, a house or more, but all our searching didn’t find anywhere.  But Alistair and John, thank you very much, for suggesting that as “Sandend” is traditionally pronounced “Sanine”, “Wardine” may well be “Wardend”, a substantial homestead off the Foggie Road towards Inchdrewer Castle.
  • The word “SISHON” appears twice (3rd Mar and 7th April 1874), with John just saying “At the Sishon today”.  One eagle-eyed reader, thanks Ben, spotted that both of these dates are the first Tuesday of the month, which is when the Kirk Session in Banff was held.  So like many other writings in his Diary, John wrote down what he heard; ie Session to him came across as “Sishon” so that is what he wrote down.  Unlike gardening words, many of which he subsequently gets right, perhaps because his mentor corrected him, and/or he looked it up in a gardening magazine (we know Duff House subscribed to at least one) or one of the Libraries that were available at Duff House or in the town, this spelling stayed the same.
  • On 14th March 1874, John was down at Mr Mackie’s – the Head Gardener – learning to make “MURLINS”.  Also spelled “murlain”, a round narrow necked basket.  Often apparently used by fishermen to hold sand eels, whelks etc, but no specific gardening use has been identified.  John didn’t go out on the sea in a boat until 8th August!
  • Or could MURLIN mean Murlie Tuck, a dish from north east Scotland of crumbled toasted oatcake mixed into milk, using the pieces off fresh oatcakes? Murlin as in crumbling, tuck as in good food.
  • On 24th March 1874 John “Lifted the SYES, dug and replanted them”.  Clearly “syes” were a flower or vegetable of some sort. With many thanks to Lorna, she remembered an old neighbour referring to “syes”, when he was talking about his chives in the garden.  This all fits with lifting them in the spring, which is best practice to rejuvenate them, by splitting large groups and spreading them out.

If you have ideas on anything else in the book, or indeed different explanations to the ones in the book or above, please be in touch, and we’ll add them to the above.  Your contact would be much appreciated.