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Word for 30th July 2012

“ RONE n a gutter at the eaves of a roof.”

This summer has been a testing time for rones. We first find them called by this name in 1750 when there is a reference in Glasgow Burgh Records to “mending of the rhones to the washing house”. Soon after, a diminutive form appears in a poem by Robert Gray (1793):“While houses clad with slates did dreep, And fill’d ilk ronny”. Their necessity is illustrated by this 1841 quotation from Education in Stirlingshire from the Reformation to the Acts of 1872 by Andrew Bain: “The floor threatening to break up through dampness caused by the ‘want of a rune’”. They are of considerable use to birds. Naomi Mitchison tells us in Lobsters on the Agenda (1952): “The starlings were nesting in the rhones again”, and the Glagow Herald (1931) provides the simile “Like a clutter o' doos on a rone-pipe”. On the down side, they have been the cause of many a ball game coming to a premature end and they are vulnerable in winter as the Orcadian (19 January 1996) explains: “These roan pipes never stay attached; as soon as an avalanche of wet snow starts to slide down the roof, when an ice-lowsing begins, it carries the spoots along with it”.  The rone directs the rainwater into a vertical pipe called the rone pipe, but some quotations show that this pipe may also simply be called a rone. Another simile comes from S. R.  Crockett’s Strong Mac (1904): “Standing wi’ his mooth open like a roan pipe in a drought”. An additional meaning is given in the Dictionary of the Scots Language as “A spout or funnel for carrying air, e.g. into the middle of a corn-stack”, illustrated by a 1773 quotation from The Scottish Farmer: “A rhone of wood could be made for the purpose, communicating with the center”.

Scots Word of the Week is written by Chris Robinson of Scottish Language Dictionaries.