Willow, horse harnesses and a gaelic saying


Sometimes languages have sayings in them that originate from past times whenlife was different. Apparently the gaelic language has such a saying originating from when horses were used for transport and their harnesses were made from willow

‘Is mithich a bith ‘bogadh nan gad’ means ‘it’s time to be going’ or ‘lets go’ but if it is literally translated it means ‘it is time to soak the willows’. This came from a time when horse harnesses were made out of plaited willow and these harnesses needed to be soaked to soften them before putting them on the horse (1). It seems that while the willow harnesses would dry out and become hard while being hung up when not in use, if it is soaked the sweat from the horse would keep it supple during use. Harnesses would alos be made out of softer materials like grass in some places, for example we know that in South Uist Marram grass was used to make horse harnesses.(2)

by Julie Gurr


(1)Transcript of Julie Gurr Interviewing Alisdair Davidson on 16th August 2013


(2) Roger Hutchinson; The Silent Weaver. pub.Birlinn, 2011


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