November 12th 1795
WeedsThe problems of weeds growing among the cornfields throughout Scotland were long standing. Even as far back as Kenneth McAlpin’s time there was an attempt to deal with the question. “He that suffers his land to be fylit (overgrown) with guildis (corn marigold) or siklike improffitable wedis, sall pay for the first fault; ane ox to the common gude; the second fault, ten oxen; and the third fault he sall be forfalted of his landis.” In spite of the drastic nature of the statute the problems remained.
During the reign of Alexander 2nd (1214-49) two more Acts were passed. “Gif any farmer puts any guilde in the landis pertaining to the king, or to ane Baron; and will not clenge the land; he sould be punished as ane tratour, qua leades and conveyes ane host of enemies in the King’s lands or the Baron’s. Secondly, gif thy native bondman has guilde within thy land; for ilk stock he sall give to thee; or to onie other Lord of the land, ane Muton (sheep) as an unlaw (fine) and nevertheless sall clenge the land of the guilde.”
It seems doubtful whether these Acts were of much immediate consequence but by the end of the 18th Century the more progressive landowners became aware of the possibilities of agricultural improvement and the factors standing in the way of it. The presence of guilde or gools obviously restricted yields and was a particularly difficult problem in the parish of Cargill.
In the First Statistical Account the minister, Mr Bannerman, takes up the story. “The lands of Cargill were formally so very much over-run by a weed with a yellow flower that grows among the corns, especially in wet seasons, called Gool, and which had the most pernicious effect, not only upon the corns while growing, but also in preventing their winning after cut down, that it was found absolutely necessary to adopt some effectual method of extirpating it altogether. Accordingly after allowing a reasonable time for procuring clean seed from other quarters, an Act of the Barons-Court was passed, imposing a fine of 3s 4d or a wedder sheep, on the tenants for every stock of gool that should be found growing among their corns on a particular day, and certain persons styled gool-riders were appointed to ride through the fields, search for gool, and carry the law into execution when they discovered it. Though the fine of a wedder sheep, originally imposed for every stock of gool found growing in the barony, is now reduced and commuted to a penny Stirling, the practice of gool-riding is still kept up and the fine rigidly exacted. The effects of this baronial regulation have been salutary, beyond what could have been well expected. Five stocks of gool were formally said to grow for every stock of corn through all the lands of the barony, and 20 theaves (normally two stooks each containing 12 sheaves) of barley did not then produce one boll (1.25 cwt)
Now the grounds are so cleared of this noxious weed, that the corns are in high request for seed; and after the most diligent search, the gool-riders can hardly discover as many growing stocks of gool, the fine for which will afford them a dinner and a drink”
The corn marigold or gool is not to be confused with charlock or wild mustard which was a common weed among grain crops until the mid-fifties of this century.