The Meal and Ale the 1940s disco night for rural Aberdeenshire folk

A concert in the farm barn

The Meal and Ale the 1940s disco night for rural Aberdeenshire folk

The harvest celebration

Up to the late 1940s the celebration of the hairst being finished was celebrated in each district of Aberdeenshire with an evening eating drinking dancing and listening to local talent doing their party piece. Nothing different about that you might say but the meal and ale was held in the farm barn.
Each farmer and his wife took turns of hosting the meal and ale which took place during mid to late October each year. The invitations would be given to all attending by the farmer personally by him visiting each of the neighbours and providing them with the date and time of this special event. Each local area would have had people who had musical talent or entertaining abilities. The host farmer would make sure that these talented farm servants or locals had their invitation. The farmer’s wife would also do the rounds of other wife’s who had the talent of home baking special pieces, dumplins, cheese, butter, preserves and jams. All the food which was consumed during the fly time midway through the meal and ale.

Getting everything ready for the Meal and Ale

The barn had to be made ready for the meal and ale. The thrashing mill and all the walls and roof would have been brushed down to rid any cobwebs or stew for any surface. All straw, hay and corn would be removed and seating used when the traveling thrashing mil visited during the winter months. The barn would be decorated with tree branches seasonal berries and of course the lucky rowan berries and branches. The neighbours would all help to get the barn looking its best.
The food was important as was the entertainment but one of the most discussed features was the drink called the Ale. This was made with recipes handed down from generations of mother s to daughters through time. The ingredients used would include stout, lemonade homemade, spices some fruit , oatmeal and of course whisky the exact quantities of each were kept a secret within the host family. All the above was our real inheritance and very much part of each areas cultural identity.

The Neepers arrive and the entertainment begins
The night would start at” the back o siven” with the host farmer and his wife welcoming all the guests which included children. All would find seats around the walls of the barn and the side of the thrashing mill. The centre of the barn was where the entertainers did their party piece. After about half an hour of people just speaking to each other the individual entertainers would be asked to do their spot. There would be a man or a woman who had a good personality who acted as compere for introducing the acts. Between each act which also involved children there was time for folk t blether t een inither. I suppose there was quite a bit of gossiping took place also. The discussions were usually cantered around rural life and the assessment of the local rural skills which were always a source of comment.

Fly time n a blether
With all the entertainers having done their bit the first half of the evening was complete. It was now time for the fly and all the fine pieces, homemade cheese and breed to be enjoyed. This wid have taken about half an hour. After this the meal and ale drink was dispensed by the farmer and his wife. Each person took their own bowl and spoon t sup the meal and ale drink. Only one bowl pf this potent drink was given, but some of the young men came back for a suppy mair. Alcoholic drunk was only drank at one or two special events per year. With two bowls of the drink the results soon became clear. This added to the entertainment of the event seeing some of the young halflins getting a we bit tipsy. All usually in good fun.

Dancing ends the evening
It was now time for the dancing to take place the two musicians fiddle and melodeon or mouthorgan players would play all the favourite dances, reels, jigs, two steps, old time and modern waltzes.
The dancing newsing and some drinking from peoples own bottles continued till about 11.45pm when the proceedings would come to an end with the farmer thanking his guest and hoping that they had a gweed nicht and wished them a safe journey hame.
This was a very special night and similar nights to celebrate the harvest being finished took place pan Scotland represented the culture of Rural areas.

Dot getting the fly ready at the meal and Ale

Don Carney
Carney Heritage Productions