BROCH n. and v.
With unsettled and chilly weather comes nights when it might be possible to observe a broch around the moon. This is generally thought to be a pretty reliable indication that the weather is about to take a turn for the worse. In Caithness or Banff this phenomenon goes by the descriptive name of a “cock’s ee”, while in Ayrshire you might look for a “fauld”. Whatever you call it, it is a sign of violent weather, and the further out the broch is from the moon, the closer the storm:
“The further the broch, the nearer the rauch.”
The word broch is also used for the structures (found in Orkney, Shetland and the adjacent Scottish mainland) consisting of a round tower with inner and outer walls of stone. In fact, a broch can describe any circle or halo - as in J. Stewart’s
“Wi draps o drink on Saturdays, there’s some gets roarin fou; There’s quarrelin, an crakit croons, an een wi brochs o blue.”
Broch can also refer to a circle around the tee in a curling rink (a brocher is a stone between the rings) or a ring drawn on the ground for a children’s game of marbles.
Its origin is the Old English “burh” which gives us the modern word “burgh”, hence the sense of burgh or town:
“Musselbrogh was a brogh When Edinbrogh was nane”
(R. Chambers Popular Rhymes, 1870).
To anyone from the North East, however, the Broch means Burghead and Fraserburgh. W. Gregor’s Folk-Lore of North-East Scotland (1881) claims that
“Aberdeen will be a green, An Banff a borough’s toon, But Fraserbroch ’ill be a broch When a’ the brochs is deen”.
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