E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
(The final word.)
BEAR A HAND. Come and help. Bend to your work immediately.
CAP IN HAND. Suppliantly, humbly; as, To come cap in hand.
DEAD MANS HAND. It is said that carrying a dead mans hand will produce a dead sleep. Another superstition is that a lighted candle placed in the hand of a dead man gives no light to anyone but him who carries the hand. Hence burglars, even to the present day in some parts of Ireland, employ this method of concealment.
EMPTY HAND.An empty hand is no lure for a hawk. You must not expect to receive anything without giving a return. The Germans say, Wer schmiert der fährt. The Latin proverb is Da, si vis accipre, or Pro nihlo, nihil fit.
HEAVY HAND, as To rule with a heavy hand, severely, with oppression.
OLD HAND (An). One experienced.
POOR HAND (A). An unskilful one. He is but a poor hand at it, i.e. he is not skilful at the work.
RED HAND, or bloody hand, in coat armour is generally connected with some traditional tale of blood, and the badge was never to be expunged till the bearer had passed, by way of penance, seven years in a cave, without companion, without shaving, and without uttering a single word.
In Aston church, near Birmingham, is a coat-armorial of the Holts, the bloody hand of which is thus accounted for:It is said that Sir Thomas Holt, some two hundred years ago, murdered his cook in a cellar with a spit, and, when pardoned for the offence, the king enjoined him, by way of penalty, to wear ever after a bloody hand in his family coat.
In the church of Stoke dAbernon, Surrey, there is a red hand upon a monument, the legend of which is, that a gentleman shooting with a friend was so mortified at meeting with no game that he swore he would shoot the first live thing he met. A miller was the victim of this rash vow, and the bloody hand was placed in his family coat to keep up a perpetual memorial of the crime.
Similar legends are told of the red hand in Wateringbury church, Kent; of the red hand on a table in the hall of Church-Gresly, in Derbyshire; and of many others.
The open red hand, forming part of the arms of the province of Ulster, commemorates the daring of ONeile, a bold adventurer, who vowed to be first to touch the shore of Ireland. Finding the boat in which he was rowed outstripped by others, he cut off his hand and flung is to the shore, to touch it before those in advance could land.
The open red hand in the armorial coat of baronets arose thus:-James I. in 1611 created two hundred baronets on the payment of £1,000 each, ostensibly for the amelioration of Ulster, and from this connection with Ulster they were allowed to place on their coat armour the open red hand, up to that time borne by the ONeiles. The ONeile whose estates were made forfeit by King James was surnamed Lamb-derig Eirin (red-hand of Erin).
RIGHT HAND.He is my right hand. In France, Cest mon bras droit, my best man.
SECOND-HAND. (See SECOND.)
UPPER HAND.To get the upper hand. To obtain the mastery.
YOUNG HAND (A). A young and inexperienced workman.