In Scotland and northern England, at least as early as the 10ᵗʰ century – 19ᵗʰ century, a unit of harvested grain or pulse on the stalk, or flax or hemp = 2 shocks or stooks = 24 sheaves. Also spelled threave, thraif, thrieve, thraf, and in Latin thravam and travam.
A source in the 19ᵗʰ century describes the threave of wheat as 28 sheaves, but of barley, oats or pease as 24 sheaves; see source 3, below.
The thrave was the common measure of corn in the field as early as the reign of David I., who granted that the monastery of Scone should receive as conveth from each plough land, “decem travas avene,” [ten thraves of oats] with other rude produce (s). This term was derived probably from the Saxon threaf, a handful, a bundle; and the Saxons may themselves have taken their threaf from the British drev, a bundle or tye. The thrave comprehended two shocks or stooks, which themselves consisted of twenty-four sheaves. (t)
(s) Chart. Scone. 16. David Oliphard granted to the hospital of Soltre “unam thravam de blado” for every plough in his demesne. Chart. Soltre. 16. In 1271 an inquest from three neighboring manors found that the hospital had a right to this thrave of corn. Ib., 17. Thomas de Haya granted to the same hospital a thrave of corn in autumn from each plough in his land south of the Forth. Ib., 53. In 1228 Alexander II. granted to the same hospital “unam travam bladi.” yearly from plough in his demesne on the southern side of the Scottish sea. Ib., 41.
(t) For the Saxon threaf see Somner, and for the British drev see Owen’s Dict.; dreva signifies the number 24, and dreva-o-yd means twenty-four sheaves of corn or a thrave. The (d) of the British was early converted to the (ð) of the Saxons.
Caledonia, or a Historical and Topographical Account of North Britain, from the most ancient etc.. New edition, vol. 2.
Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1887.
Page 812. Chalmer's etymology is wrong; the word's origin is Scandinavian. See the Oxford English Dictionary.
THRAIF, Thrave, &c., s. Twenty-four sheaves.] Add;
“Anent the wrangwiss spoliatioun of a stak of aitis, extending to ii c & thre score of thravis of fothir [fodder], as was allegeit; — the lordis auditoris decretis,” &c. Act. Audit. A. 1478, p. 60.
—“The saidis Cristiane — sall content & paye to the said Johnne xxiij b. of atis, & xl thraf of fothir, or ellis the avale of thaim.” Ibid.
It is sometimes written Thrieve.
“I have thrashed a few thrieves in the minister's barn, prime oats they were, for the glebe had been seven years in lea.” Lights and Shadows, p. 214.
Threaver, s. One who in harvest is paid according to the number of threaves he cuts down, S.B.
“While a reaper cuts, in the usual hasty manner of a feed shearer, at the rate of nine threaves a-day, a threaver will, with less labour to himself, cut ten threaves in the same time.” Agr. Surv. Kincard. p.264.
Threaving, s. The mode of payment mentioned above, S.B.
“Threaving. This consists in paying each reaper individually according to his daily work, ascertained by the number of threaves, of two stooks each, and every stook twelve sheaves, and each sheaf at the band to fill a fork ten inches wide between the prongs. The price commonly given is four-pence the threave.” Ibid.
THRAVE, s. Twenty-four sheaves. V. Thraif.
To Thrave, v. n. To work by the thrave in harvest, to have wages in proportion to the number of thraves, Aberd., Mearns.
Thraver, s. One who works according to this ratio, ibid. V. under Thraif.
Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language.
Edinburgh: Printed at the University Press, 1825.
Pages 558 and 559.
For a threave of wheat, consisting of twenty-eight sheaves, each sheave measuring thirty inches round, they recive 4d. ; and for a threave of barley, oats, or pease, of twenty-four sheaves, each thirty inches round, 3 d.
[Footnote on same page, from George Paterson, Esq. of Castle-Huntly.:]
The wheat-threave consists of twenty-eight sheaves, each sheaf measuring thirty-six inches in girth, at the band ; for cutting and binding of which is paid, in his neighborhood, 6 d. per threave. The barley, oats and pease, or bean threave, consists of twenty-four sheaves, of thirty inches girth, for cutting and binding of which is paid 4 d. each threave. The dimensions of the sheaves are varied according to the fancy of the farmer, and the price is either more or less according as the size of the sheaf is increased or diminished. Hence what may cost 6 d. and 4 d. in one part of the district, may be charged only 4d. and 3 d. in another.
Sir John Sinclair.
An Account of the systems of husbandry adopted in the more improved districts of Scotland …
Edinburgh: Arch. Constable and Company, 1812.
Volume I, page 330.
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Last revised: 1 June 2010.