Thursday, 11 March 2021

Archive in a Pandemic A-Z: R is for...


We are quite late with this installation of Archive In A Pandemic and it is probably because this stage of the pandemic has been exhausting us a little and we are still short staffed after the retirement of The Fonds.

We were in need of a restorative and found one in the archives today in the Watt of Breckness and Skaill collection. This document written on January 3rd 1737 is a letter from Thomas Baikie, Kirkwall to his son. He begins the letter with his sorrow that his son and wife have been ill and proceeds to share the recipe for a restorative 'if you be troubled with a cough and fear a decay'.

We could read most of the ingredients, but some of the words stumped us a little (highlighted below), so do please help us out if you can and then we can all brew up lovely restorative potions against cough and decay...

Orkney Archive Reference D3/386 - click to enlarge

To make the tincture, Thomas advised his son to take 'a chapin (about a half-pint) of brandy, 4 ounces of pepper, 1/2 ounce of  ___?____ , 1/2 ounce of cinamon, a handful of jags (thorns), a handful of the tops of spearmint, and a handful of the tops of wormwood.'

The method he gives is to 'braise the spices, cut the herbs, infuse them into the brandie, put into an earthen bottle, which will contain honie ____?______ 

This mixture was to be gently heated, 'till by the godes you bring it to a little boil',  left for 24 hours and then half a spoonful taken with milk in the morning or 3 or 4 drops in a dram of whisky.

You may find wormwood and earthen bottles hard to come by so we could conceivably replace the cinnamon and honey mixture with cinnamon buns and just have it with brandy or whisky. Can't hurt.


  1. Paul Sutherland16 March 2021 at 21:33

    Here's my attempt. Bringing a sealed bottle to the boil must have been fun the first time!: 'To make Tinctura Spiritus vini rectificati. Take a chapin of brandie, 4 ounces of pepper, 1/2 ounce of meace[mace?], 1/2 ounce of cinamon, a handful of sage, a handfull of the tops of spear mint, a handfull of the tops of wormwood, bruise the spices, cut the herbs, infuse them all with the brandie, put into an earthen bottle, which will contain some more, stop it closs, ty it about strongly wt a leather above the cork. Give it a gentle heat, till by degrees you bring it to a little boil. Let it sock 24 hours thereafter jogging it often. Then strain of the liquor, take half a spoon full of it in 1/2 muchkin of milk in the morning, & if you can - take more milk, take more liquor, and if you incline for a dram take 3 or 4 drops of it therwith.'

    1. Ah Paul your transcription does make more sense. The words "by degrees" in particular, and "sage" instead of "jags". Thank you.

  2. Paul's translation is excellent, but I also think cinnamon buns and brandy or whiskey is a wonderful option! ^_^ I could use a few drams of whiskey right about now (even though it's not yet noon here).


  3. Yes, 'by degrees' makes far more sense than 'by the gods' but makes me chortle less.

    Noon schmoon Sue, a medicinal morning whiskey is fiiiiine...

  4. hahahaha! Thanks, Archiver! I don't need the medicinal morning whiskey quite as much now. ;)

    We just got back home, after 5 weeks of living at our daughter's house while we waited for our broken pipes to be repaired following The Great Freeze of 2021. We're fortunate--we turned our water off before the pipes broke, so no actual water damage, unlike so many of our neighbors. It's good to be home.



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