Scotland has long had a complicated relationship with alcohol. It is of course home to one of the most popular and prestigious alcoholic drinks in the world - whisky (uisge beatha). Brewing also has a long history in Scotland. Growing up in Edinburgh, I was always familiar with the distinctive smells emanating from the many breweries in town.
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
Shrub was a form of alcoholic fruit liqueur, usually made with rum or brandy mixed with sugar and citrus juice or rinds. An exception was to be made for the consumption of alcohol in religious ordinances (such as wine during communion), or as medicine!
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?
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