On my way up to teach a ‘Learn to Scythe’ weekend at Forres last summer I took the opportunity to visit two museums on the way and see if I could find out more about the Scottish scythe. In 2011 I’d been given a Scottish snath of the familiar Y shape and was interested to find out why it had developed and it’s use.
My first stop was the Scottish National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride. I’d made an appointment to visit and was shown the collection of harvesting tools in storage. Although it’s only a small collection they have some nice pieces including crown blades still with their original stickers though all from makers in England. Also on the rack were the first traditional English straight snath I’ve seen plus a couple of scythes with snaths of a kind I’d never seen before, neither the American ‘S’ or the Scottish Y” shape but something in between.
In the public part of the museum itself there is just one display case for the scythe which includes a couple of interesting photos including one of a Mr Aitchison from Dumfriesshire in 1966 with a hybrid straight snath. Captions to the photos indicated that the Y-shape dated back to the early 1800’s in the Aberdeen area, presumably with the straight snath being used before that.