NO5101 : Below the Doocot

near to St Monans, Fife, Great Britain

Below the Doocot
Below the Doocot
The pale outcrop of rock here is a splendid example of trough cross-bedding, laid down in the shifting channels of a delta some 300 million years ago. On top of the cliff is the Newark Doocot, a 16th century beehive doocot. Its diameter is 12 feet 6 inches (3.8 metres) and the walls are 3 feet 8 inches (1.1 metres) thick.
Doocots
Doocot is the Scottish word for a dovecote; a pigeon is called a doo. Doos are semi-domesticated Rock Doves (Columba livia), the ancestors of the common feral pigeons found in towns.

In mediaeval and later times, it was difficult to provide winter fodder for cattle, so a significant proportion of cattle were slaughtered and the meat salted to preserve it, providing food in the form of salt beef. Chickens too tended to go off laying in winter.

Doos, however, survive all year round, and can breed at any time of year, and they like to nest in holes in dark places like caves. In order to exploit this, doocots were built so that the eggs and birds could be easily harvested for fresh food in winter. Young doos, called 'peesers', were harvested when they were about four weeks old, usually in the morning when the parent birds were out feeding.

The walls inside a doocot are lined with stone nest boxes, open at the front. It is from these that the word 'pigeonhole' is derived, of course. A doocot was also equipped with ladders to give access to the holes for harvesting.

Not everyone could build a doocot, however. It was recognised that the birds would feed on crops, so in 1617 a law was enacted stipulating that doocots must not be built less than two miles from the boundary of the estate, the logic being that the doos would then feed on ground belonging to the owner of the doocot, rather than raiding his neighbours' land. The snag was that of course the doos fed on his tenants' land. Thus in practice only the owner or tenant of a large property could build one, so when you see a doocot you know that it was a fairly large estate or farm.

Doocots come in various shapes and sizes, the commonest being rectangular buildings with a single sloping roof, called lectern doocots. Also common are round doocots tapering towards the top. These are called beehive doocots.

Almost all doocots have a layer of flat stones protruding from the wall high up and right round the building. This is to prevent rats climbing the walls and gaining access through the holes in the roof used by the birds.

There was a belief that the destruction of a doocot would be followed within the year by the death of a family member.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
year taken
2012
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NO5101, 48 images   (more nearby)
Photographer
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Image classification?
Geograph
Date Taken
Sunday, 24 June, 2012   (more nearby)
Submitted
Wednesday, 27 June, 2012
Geographical Context
Geological interest  Farm, Fishery, Market Gardening 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NO 5193 0119 [10m precision]
WGS84: 56:12.0523N 2:46.5809W
Photographer Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NO 5193 0119
View Direction
Northwest (about 315 degrees)
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Doocot  Dovecote  Cross-Bedding 

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