In my old Shetland dictionary, “A glossary of the Shetland dialect” by James Stout Angus, the word Amos appears.
Amos, a noun, is explained as “a dole promised to some indigent person on condition that some hoped for good comes to the person who promises.”
An amos boddie: a person deserving of charity; a person capable of winning an amos.
“To lay on an amos” means to promise an amos or reward.
I wonder if it originally came from, or is connected to the word “alms”, and originally was a way of giving something to a person in need of charity while allowing them to keep their dignity.
An elderly friend, a keen knitter, used to give me a gift if I had come upon her starting a piece of knitting and it turned out well. She was born during WW1 and like Shetlanders from that time, always had a knitting project on the go.
She would suddenly appear with a packet of tea, or biscuits. When I asked why, she would say “you were a good amos on my knitting” (in fact that she had laid on an amos on her project and found I had brought it luck.)
Certain people were thought to be lucky in this respect. You weren’t meant to tell of the amos till the project was finished.
Recently on a local (Shetland) social media site concerned with dialect words, I asked if anyone still “laid on an amos”. I was rather astonished to find that many people still did, as well as remembering the previous generation doing it. Someone mentioned a niece getting a “peerie hansel” (small gift) often when a project went well.
It is interesting how these customs linger on, and it also make me wonder where it all started.