In the 17th and 18th Century the Burrey Man was an important tradition to fishermen in and around Aberdeen. If the fishing was bad the Burrey Man was meant to change that. This was important to the Aberdonians, during this time fish was not only the main trade of the town, but the staple diet of many of the inhabitants. Bad fishing not only spelled financial ruin, but possibly starvation as well.
The Burrey Man was chosen, possibly a scapegoat or stranger, and was covered in burrs. He was then made to walk through the town and out into the country. The bad luck effecting the fishing was supposed to stick to the burrs. The bad luck and the burrs were then taken from the vicinity by the poor banished man. What is meant to happen after that, normally, is unknown. Possibly he returned, minus the burrs, or several days later, or after a set period of time has passed.
Whereas what was meant to happen to the man when the tradition and ritual were followed correctly is unknown, however there are records of what happened occasionally. After walking through the town the Burrey Man would be chased and set upon. It was normally around Stonehaven, a small town south of Aberdeen, that the poor man was caught and beaten. Several times the townsfolk carried this too far and the Burrey Man would be killed in their enthusiasm to rid themselves of the bad luck.
The practise stopped in the 1860's when missionaries came and settled here (you know the darkest East coast of Scotland). The missionaries brought their own particular brand of evangelical christianity and opened up the first Seaman's Mission, to help in times of need. The missions would have soon banned what they would see as a pagan ritual, and as the missions would look after the parishioners, during times of hardship, the Burrey Man soon died out.