Scots also have a reputation - perhaps a little unfair, but also not entirely unwarranted - as a nation of drinkers. Official Scotland - or quasi-official Scotland, in the form of the Church - has long sought to regulate and control the temptations of alcohol. Kirk Session records are full of disapproving references to drunkenness and the evils of alcohol.
Awareness of the hazards of excess alcohol consumption was widespread in the 18th century. William Hogarth's famous prints Beer Street and Gin Lane served to graphically illustrate the social ills associated with the Gin Craze. Production of alcohol was in many cases subjected to licences and taxation - although alcohol taxes were often lower in Scotland than in England.
The nineteenth century saw the rise of the temperance movement. The founding figure in Scotland is generally considered to be John Dunlop of Maryhill, who established a society to campaign against "ardent spirits", advocating the consumption of less alcoholic drinks instead. Others - notably publisher William Collins - took a stricter view, calling for total abstinence from alcohol. The Scottish Temperance League was formed in Falkirk in 1844. Local groups sprang up in many parts of Scotland. One such was the Thornhill Total Abstinence Society, established in 1846 in Thornhill, not far from Falkirk.
The minutes of the Society survive among the records of Norrieston Free Church. The records start with a statement of the Rules of the Society:
Rules of the Thornhill Total Abstinence Society
That this Society shall be designated The Thornhill Total Abstinence Society, and its sole object shall be to prevent drunkenness and reclaim the intemperate by inculcating Abstinence from all intoxicating liquors.
That the Society shall consist of all who agree to the following pledge: “I hereby promise to abstain from Ale, Porter, Cyder, Shrub, Wine, Ginger Cordial & all other Intoxicating Liquors except as a Medicine, or in a Religious Ordinance, that I will neither give nor offer them to others and that I will discontinue all the Causes and Practices of Intemperance.”
That no sectarian peculiarities in religion, or party opinions in politics, shall be introduced into tracts, or by speakers at the Society’s meetings.
That the affairs of this Society shall be conducted by a President, Vice President, Treasurer, or Secretary, and a Committee of not less than twenty four Members, or less if found convenient, who shall remain in office for one year.
That the Annual Meeting of the Society shall be held in January, when a Report of the Committees transactions shall be laid before the Meeting.
[Thornhill Total Abstinence society minutes 1851-1909, NRS Reference CH3/1224/7 p. 1]
The records continue with a list of members from 1846 up to 1851. I have found family members in a similar record set in Edinburgh, where a subscription scheme was set up, and members who remained teetotal after 10 years were paid a share of the subscription proceeds. Were any of your ancestors teetotallers in Thornhill?