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Doric Poets and Writers -


The Bards of Bon Accord


There have been Scottish poets before and since Burns who have been bred in poverty and distress, and in whose lives the flowers of poetry have bloomed amid the most depressing and uncongenial circumstances. There have been crofters, shepherds, farm labourers, tailors, weavers, and shoemakers, servant lassies and old wives, who have given expression to their feelings in verse and song, with more or less skill and success, and testi­fied to the strength of the national genius which has made Scotland so peculiarly the land of song, and filled the lower bed of bracken and furze in which the higher and rarer flowers of Scottish minstrelsy have stood prominent. And the history of the minor Scottish poets is full of the homely pathos of unrequited toil, of pinching poverty, and of hopeless struggles with life, redeemed by honest virtue, patience, and thrift, or clouded with still deeper misfortune, and absolutely and irredeemably wrecked by dissipation and improvidence.

But upon none, in whom the divine spark of genius existed, did the burdens of life fall more heavily than upon William Thom, or the tragedies of existence reach a blacker depth of misery. The story has been told by himself in The Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver, his only volume, in nervous and vigorous prose, bearing traits of the declamatory style of Ebenezer Elliot and the radical writers of his school, but marked by native originality and strength. It has more than a personal value, as illustrating the condition of the life of Factory Hands in Scotland, when machines had multiplied to the complete degradation of skilled labour, and when it was simply a question with the Mill Owners of extracting the largest amount of work for the smallest wages from the operatives, and before the Government had interfered to regulate the hours of labour within endurable limits, and secure some of the conditions of health to the Mill Hands. A more appalling picture of hopeless poverty and starvation, and physical and moral degradation, has never been given in the annals of the civilized world, and of its truth there is abundant evidence in the writings of contemporary working men in England and Scotland, and in the testimony which led to the passage of the Factory Regulation Acts by the English Parliament.

One of the most extraordinary and painful lives in literary history was that of William Thom,

William Thom was born in 1798 of parents steeped in poverty, in a tenement in Sinclair's Close, Justice Port, Aberdeen, and at the age of 10 began his apprenticeship to life in a Cotton Factory. At the age of 15 or 16 he entered the "School Hill Factory," - Messrs Gordon, Barron, and Co a Hand-Weaving building since swept away, - as a weaver hand, and remained there for 17 years. The wages of the best operatives averaged through good and bad times from 6 to 9 shillings weekly, and of the 2nd-class from 3 to 5 shillings. The daily hours of labour were 14. What that meant, not in poverty, but in absolute want of food, warmth, and the means for the sustenance of life, the degradation of rags, the shutting out of all glimpses of heaven and earth, leaving the only alleviation to the hours of toil at the rattling machines, and the squalid suffering in the reeking tenements, in the cheap and fiery stimulants of the taprooms, can be only faintly imagined. An inheritance of bad habits had also descended to the weaving class. When the factories were first established in 1770, after the invention of the spinning jenny, the wages of skilful workmen were 40/- a week, and the operatives usually remained drunk from Saturday night until Wednesday morning, wore frilled shirts and powdered hair, sported canes, and quoted Volney in their discussions on the rights of man in the taprooms. The surplus of labour gradually reduced the wages to the starvation point, while the habits of dissipation and recklessness remained as characteristic of the craft.

Thorn gives a most affecting picture of the lives and thoughts of these men, many of them, strong with native intellect and passion, condemned to a life of unending servitude and degradation, too ragged to dare to enter a church, even if they wished, and getting their only glimpse of nature in the garden of Gordon's Hospital, which was open on the Sunday holiday, while the whiskey shop gave them their only taste of joy and exhilaration; and yet who had a native feeling for poetry, repeating the verses of Burns and particularly of Tannahill, their brother weaver, as they tended their looms, and applauding the poets and singers in their own ranks, whose rude verses expressed their feelings or appealed to their sympathies in the gatherings in the taprooms. The moral influences of such a life, where 300/400 men and women were herded together in common workrooms was also very bad, and many a young girl dated her ruin in life, bringing additional desolateness to the miserable home, from the promiscuous association, and being barred out into the streets with a heavy fine for failing to be at the factory door at its opening in the early morning. How virtue, morality, or any of the decency and self-respect of humanity  could exist at all in such a life may be considered a marvel, and it is a proof of the inherent strength of the Scottish character and its inherited virtues that these factories were not greater plague spots than they actually were, and that honest lives and human affections flourished at all. In a poem, entitled Whisperings to the Unwashed, in the fiercely declamatory style of the Corn Law Rhymer, Thorn draws a grim picture of the awakening of the weavers at the call of the Town Drum, used for that purpose in the smaller Burghs, at 6 o'clock in the bleak and dark Northern mornings.

Rubadub, rubadub, row-dow-dow !
Hark how he waukens the Weavers now ;
Who lie belaired in a dreamy steep —
A mental swither, 'tween death and sleep,

Wi' hungry wame and hopeless heart,
Their food no feeding, their sleep no rest ;
Arouse ye, ye sunken, unravel your rags,
No coin in your coffers, no meal in your bags.

Yet cart, barge, and wagon, with load after load,
Creak, mockfully passing your breadless abode.
The stately stalk of Ceres bears,
But not for you the bursting ears.

In vain to you the lark's lov'd note,
For you no summer breezes float,
Grim winter through your hovel pours -
Dull, dim, and breathless vapour yours.

The nobler Spider weaves alone,
And feels the little web his own,

The Mitherless Bairn

When a' ither bairnies are hush'd to their hame,
By aunty, or cousin, or frecky grand-dame,
Wha stands last an' lanely, an' sairly forfairn?
'Tis the puir dowie laddie - the mitherless bairn! 

The mitherless bairnie creeps to his lane bed,
Nane covers his cauld back, or haps his bare head;
His wee hackit heelies are hard as the airn,
An' lithless the lair o' the mitherless bairn !

Aneath his cauld brow, siccan dreams hover there,
O' hands that wont kindly to kaim his dark hair!
But mornin' brings clutches, a' reckless an' stern,
That lo'e na the locks o' the mitherless bairn.

The sister wha sang o'er his saftly rock'd bed,
Now rests in the mools where their mammie is laid;
While the father toils sair his wee bannock to earn,
An' kens na the wrangs o' his mitherless bairn.

Her spirit that pass'd in yon hour of his birth,
Still watches his lone lorn wand'rings on earth,
Recording in heaven the blessings they earn,
Wha couthilie deal wi' the mitherless bairn!

Oh ! speak him na harshly - he trembles the while,
He bends to your bidding, and blesses your smile -
In their dark hour o' anguish, the heartless shall learn,
That God deals the blow for the mitherless bairn !

Rhymes and Recollections of a Hand-loom Weaver

William Buchanan entered the employment Leys, Masson & Co., and there William was bred to the craft of a Linen Weaver, under his father’s care. At that craft he wrought until machinery displaced the handloom, when he turned to Wincey Weaving, (a plain- or twill-weave cloth, usually having a cotton or linen warp and a wool filling) and continued at that kind of work until a few years ago, when he had to give it up, partly through the like causes as before and partly through failing health. 

James Cock Biography

In the year 1806, being then labouring under a complaint of the stone, under which I groaned for 6 years, and being greatly disabled from labour, I applied my self to the composition of poetry. Reduced to extreme necessity, with the advice of some friends, I forced myself out to public view, and at the above date, published the 1st copy of my lame productions. Thanks to a candid and generous public, the friendly and liberal reception my poetical labours met with tended much to relieve my depressed and afflicted situation. My complaint continued to increase, to such an alarming degree, that my tender wife and family were so affected by my sighs and agonizing groans, that the cravings of nature and appetite could find no enjoyment, and meal-time was often spent in sighs and tears, until the hour of labour called them out from the affecting scene. In March, 1807, I went through a painful operation, being then in the 55th year of my age; made an excellent recovery, - and, by the blessing of God on human endeavours, I obtained a radical cure. The smallest symptom of that complaint has never made its appearance, neither has that hazardous operation left any of those bad effects which many have to complain of, who make the painful experiment. The operation was performed by the learned, tender-hearted, and most attentive Doctor, at that time one of the Surgeons of the Infirmary of Aberdeen: the stone which he extracted from me is of a hard solid smooth texture, much like a pebble on the sea beach. This gentleman's name shall ever be dear to me, while I enjoy the powers of thought and recollection. In 1810, I published a 2nd volume of Poems. With a heartfelt sigh of gratitude I acknowledge the goodness of a sympathising and humane public, on both these emergencies; and I owe much to those characters of distinction who felt interested in promoting the sale of both publications, the good effects of which removed, in a great degree, those unwelcome visitants, want and penury, from my humble home.

A comic dialect pastoral by James Cock, an Aberdeenshire weaver.  Davie and Willie, two hoary Scots well gone in years, complain about the times:
There was na ane amang a score
Wha kent the use o' pen an' ink:
Yet honesty an' ready clink
Was mair in vogue, I sall avow,
Than a' their bits o' paper now".

Willie has taken a second wife, who has turned out to be a woeful spendthrift. Davie had warned him as much, but had not been heeded:

"O Willie, Willie, ye was misled,
To fix an' ty your auld grey head
To sic a capernoited elf,
Wha aim'd at naething but your self"

Willie describes his wife's outrageous ways, and the comic revenge he has taken on his wife and her pretentious friends. This poem likely appeared in the 1st edition of Hamespun Lays (1806).

As I was born to no patrimony, nor obtained any by my marriage, I have no reason to look back with regret on spending a fortune left me by my progenitors. It is well known, the profession of a weaver is the most laborious occupation followed by the labouring part of the community. It will be admitted by all who have any experience of that craft, that the man who works his way with a family, and has no other finances than what his shuttle affords, must bend beneath an insupportable burden, which never fails to bring upon him premature old age, with all its dreary attendants: this I can aver, from 54 years experience of many different branches of that toilsome business. But what is most of all to be lamented after the unremitting slavery and rigid economy which weavers are subjected to, they never have it in their power to save a shilling, to warm the winter of old age. Beneath obscurity, penury, and want, he lingers out the remains, perhaps, of 4-score toilsome years, day by day sighing for that relief which death and the grave can alone afford

Hamespun Lays - Davie and Willie

At the foot of the hill where the hamlet smokes,
Two peasants once happily met;
What rural simplicity flow'd in their jokes,
All on the green turf as they sat.

Old David was bow'd beneath fourscore of years,
And William was threescore and ten;
Their brows they were wrinkl'd, and hoary their hairs,
And long they had dwelt in the glen.

David's father's grandfather liv'd on the spot
Their hoary successor retains;
The eighth generation now graces the spot
Where rural felicity reigns.

There pride nor ambition no entrance could get,
Sobriety guarded the door;
Their honest industry still found a retreat,
And plenty sat smiling secure.

Their sweet mutual confidence always had sooth'd
Their bosoms when burden'd with care;
The smiles of pure friendship their toils often smooth'd,
And their kindly salute was sincere.

Guid-day, auld birkie, fu gaes a',
Ye dinna sleep your time awa'.

Tho' now-a-days I'm unco crazy,
I never was ca'd sweer nor lazy.
I'm blythe to see you, come awa'
An' gi'e's your cracks an hour or twa.

Believe me, Davy, as ye like,
I saw ye loutin' o'er the dyke:
Troth I was fain to see ye there,
An' as I had an hour to spare,
I just cam' hirplin' o'er the know,
Wi' guid intent to spen't wi' you.

An' welcome, lad: fu's a' your folk,
I hope they 're up an' at the yoke?

I gi'e ye thanks, they're a' meat hale:
Jock's i' the yoke, an' at the hill,
An' Tibby's cawn the sheep out by,
An' Meg is milkin' at the ky,
Auld Marrion's busy at the churn,
An' ilka ane is at their turn.

Weel, Willie man, fan blest wi' health,
That's just the way to gather wealth;
An' diligence, we aften see,
Tends to secure prosperity:
Industry brings its ain reward,
An' folks wi' frugal care sud guard
Whatever Providence has sent them—
Just for a time it's only lent them.

I sall allow you're i' the right o' 't,
But some are keepit rather tight o' 't.

An' sae they sud wha canna guide it,
But spends 't as fast as they provide it;
An' careless chiels wha tak nae tent,
Their penny-siller's shortly spent.

But fortune, Davy, fortune, man,
Fu' aften blasts the wisest plan
That human prudence can contrive,
An' nane but fortune's fav'rites thrive;
An' some, ye ken, wha's fortune's pet,
They'll gather gear tho' scant o' wit.

I true sae, Willie, that's the gate
Wi' sic as you, wha has nae wit:
Dame fortune's sure to get the blame,
Fan things nae gain' right at hame.
Puir jad! she gets enough laid till her,
Altho' she disna steal our siller.
She's blam'd for blastin' o' our gear,
In spite o' a' our can an' care.

Davy, lad, that's e'en o'er true,
I wat her frowns aft gar us rue;
An' o' her smiles we need na brag,
She's sic a fashious fickle hag.

Dame fortune, fate, an' chance, an' luck,
Is ay in unco vogue wi' folk:
We seldom hear ae word ava
O' Providence, that rules our a'.
That's just the han' decrees our lot,
Gin we sud ne'er he worth a groat.

Fairfa' thee, neipor, I'll allow
That ye hae fairly guest it now:
We seldom differ a' our days;
An' Solomon, the wisest, says,
A frien' sticks closer than a brither,
An' sae we we to ane anither.

Hale forty years we've been acquaint,
An' ay seem'd unco well content,
Wi' open, free, an' honest heart,
Our bosom secrets to impart;
An' aften, whan opprest wi' grief,
Our mutual friendship ga'e relief:
That confidence was ne'er betray'd,
That we in ane anither had:
Whate'er we sold, or what we bought,
Our plighted word was a' we sought:
That word was seal'd by shakin' han's,
Car'd nought about their bills nor ban's.

I true sae, lad; but ye, maun ken
That ilka gouk has now his pen:
I wat fu' weel, in days o' yore,
There was na ane amang a score
Wha kent the use o' pen an' ink:
Yet honesty an' ready clink
Was mair in vogue, I sall avow,
Than a' their bits o' paper now.

Nae yellow Geordies now, I ween,
Nor sonsie siller crowns are seen;
They 're a' stow'd up in banks an' boxes,
Syne wi' their screeds o' paper mock us:
They pay us for our goods an' wark
Wi' flirds ye 'mith blaw o'er the kirk!
Sic feckless trock! the sorrow eat them!
It's nae great won'er tho' I hate them.

I trow ye've heard it said lang syne,
Our dear-bought wit we seldom tyne:
I've paid for wit sin' last I saw you—
Lat never sic mishap befa' you!
Experience, lad, 's the best o' schools,
That aften teaches thoughtless fools;
Whan precept an' example's lost,
They come in end to pay the cost;
Syne jeer'd on by the maist o' folk,
An' made a common laughin' stock.

Weel, Willie man, there's something o' 't;
But he's a simple silly sot,
An' whiles has something to regret,
Wha tak's na care whar he is set.

Ha, ha, auld gossip! I muckle doubt
Ye've heard what I ha'e been about:
Some idle gawkie ye ha'e seen,
Has tald ye a' that I ha'e deen;
An', ablins, tald ye mair nor's true—
But ye sall ha'e the bale o' 't now.

E'en dee sae, man, I lang to hear 't,
An' yet I did na like to spear't:
He does a frien' but ill deserve,
That's stintet sae wi' stiff reserve:
True friendship's open, plain, an' free,
Nor stintet wi' hypocrisy;
An' whar we fin' it is sincere,
It smores a' diffidence an' fear;
An' in the bosom whar it dwells,
There tender sympathy prevails;
An' mair out o'er, twa hearts that's leal,
Are ay fu' happy to reveal
Whatever braks their inward peace,
Whan folks can read it in their face:
'Twas there I fairly read your grief,
Sae out wi' 't, man, an' get relief:
Ye dinna ken, nor can ye say,
Fu far a frien's advice may gae.

O had I been advis'd by you,
I wad na had sic cause to rue:
My marriage, man, ah! wae's me for 't!
Has deen me muckle skaith an' hurt:
For athing out an' in's to wrack—
But yesterday will ne'er come back.
Repentance aft comes rather late,
An' sic is my unlucky fate.
My peace an' comfort now are fled,
An' ruthless care's come in their stead.
My bleatin' flock is sair decay'd;
And sax milk ky that ance I had,
Now dwindl'd down to twa or three,
An' thrift is fairly fled frae me.
I've brought a moth amang my gear;
Cauld poverty will soon appear.

Ye've brew'd a broust, sae ye maun drink it;
I'm wae to say't, for ance your blinket:
I saw't as clear's I see my thum',
To what your want o' wit wad come;
An' whan a frien' wad interfere,
Ye stapt your lugs an' wad na hear.
Gin ye but saw fu it appears,
Sic folly in your length o' years.
Wha ance ye thought was blest wi' grace,
I doubt she wears anither face.

Wow, what ye tald me lang before,
I trow has now come to my door
An' every day, wi' grief, I see
The fast approach o' misery.
Nae sporting ca'r upo' the lee,
Nae rising stock that's comin' tee;
Twa score o' lam's I had ilk year,
Will scantly count the half, I fear.
My butter, cheese, an' curns o' woo,
Are sell't an' spent, I watna fu.
The wobs o' sey my Elspa left,
An' claith o' every kind's adrift.

Your Elspa, Willie, ay took care
To claith you in good hame-spun gear;
An' now whan Elspa's worn awa',
Ye've gotten ane nae doubt mair braw;
There's mony mair mista'en nor me,
Gin e'er she fill your Elspa's shee.

Na, Davy, na, I wadna hear,
Tho' ye was friendly an' sincere;
I took my will, and now maun dree
Whate'er my folly's brought on 'o me.
Gi'e her the needle, thread, an' shears,
For naething out nor in she cares.
Fu' easy like she steps about,
An' bores awa' at some white clout.

I true sae, Willie: gi'e Jean her seam,
She'll lat you see that she's nae lame,
In sortin' up her furbelaws,
An' wow at makin' ladies braws;
She dings them a' at cap or bonnet,
Gin ance her han'y wark gae on it:
But set her out to barn or kiln,
The riddle, sieve, or to the mill,
To carry seed whan it's a-sawin',
Or to the rig whan it's a-mawin',
I fear she'll puirly mak' a shift,
Wi' jots o' wark o' ony thrift.
Whan i' the house, she'll ha'e nae will
To fash wi' cards or spinnin' wheel.

Now cards an' wheel are baith dismist,
For madam cud na thole the dust;
Nor yet the smell o' creeshie woo',
But what they're like to gar her spue.
My sister, Marion, winna bide,
She's for awa', whate'er betide.
I thought to keep her a' her days,
An' gi'e her meat an' duds o' claise;
For a' her wark she sought nae mair,
Tho' ident at it late an' ear'.
A pleasant word she canna gi'e her,
Nor can the limmer thole to see her!
The warld's upside down wi' me,
My folly now I plainly see.

O Willie, Willie, ye was misled,
To fix an' ty your auld grey head
To sic a capernoited elf,
Wha aim'd at naething but your pelf.
She's up in years, I maun allow,
But was nae bred for sic as you.
I've heard it said, the willow wan',
Whan young an' green, is easy thrawn;
Whan time an' habit gi'es 't a set,
It winna bend wi' ease, I wat.
She's e'en a sour camsteerie jade!
She winna be that easy made.

To mak' her, Davy's, past my skill:
For gin she disna get her will,
She hings her mou', and tak's the pet,
Syne fint a word ava we get;
An' a' thing's wrang, an' naething right,
That's in her road or in her sight.

Ah! waesocks, Willie, you're ill be-sted,
I did na think it half sae bad;
I whiles was hearin' something o' 't,
An' pitied your wanchancie lot.
Believe me, man, my heart's fu' sair,
An, yet there is nae help, I fear.
Sae that's your Jean urn'd inside out,
Ye did na see her till now, I doubt.
Mass John, her brither, was nae blate,
To buckle you wi' sic a cheat;
He kent fu' weel ilk fau't an' failin'.
For she's been lang about his mailin';
An' bein' a maiden auld an' stell,
His Rev'rence thought she mith do well.
Marriage may change a woman's nature,
But, faith, it's seldom to the better.
Auld maidens, ance they're past the date,
Are gi'en to murmur, frown, an' fret:
But as you're fairly buckl'd wi' her,
An' has the wedlock pledge to gi'e her,
An' that, ye ken, 's a coothie heart,
An' ay to act a manly part:
Consider, Willie, that's the point,
Without it a' thing's out o' joint.

She kens fu' weel what I possess,
An' ilka, day she's makin' it less;
For what I had in's honour's han',
A toumon syne is a' maist drawn.

But, Willie, ye had somethithing bankit.

It's hale an' fair, sae Guid be thankit:
Sae lat the hag dee what she will,
I'll dee my best to keep it hale;
It's a' that I can ca' my ain,
Any there, I trust, it sall remain;
I'll strive fu muckle mair to mak' it,
For she sall never thum' a plack o' 't;
An 'gin the graceless spendthrift kent,
The hindmost penny wad be spent.
Twa hunner poun is just the sum,
'Twill stan' in stead gin poortith come;
An' come it will, I plainly see.
For she is bent to ruin me:
Sae, neipor, ye maun keep the bill,
Nane kens this secret but yoursel'.

Believe me, lad, I'll do my best
To keep this secret in my breast.
Content an' peace has been my luck;
I've ay been like my neipour folk.
Nae o'er far up by fortune hoist,
Nor o'er sair down by poortith squeezt.
Whate'er degree o' wealth be sent us,
Gin health an' sweet content be lent us,
Wi' that, a mod'rate competence
Is ay preferr'd by folks o' sense,
To thousands they cud never use,
An' thousands they mith e'en abuse.
Wealth seldom points the way to bliss;
An' folks o' wealth fu' aften miss
The objects they wad fain enjoy,
Altho' that mith their peace destroy.

Ye've trampit now on my sair heel;
I cudna had whan I was weel,
Whan peace smil'd roun' my social fire,
An' a' was deen at my desire.
Whare pride an' mad ambition dwells,
There haggard discord ay prevails.
O Davy, Davy, sad's my change!
An' wow to me it's unco strange,
Wha ay had peace an' full content,
An' nae a boddle e'er misspent.
The produce o' her hens an' ky,
Her tea an' sucker winna buy:
She's gotten a' the trinkets for 't,
O' ilka shape an' ilka sort:
Braw painted pigs wi' gowden lips,
Instead o' timmer cogs an' caps;
A copper kettle o' the wa',
An' wow we're gettin' wond'rous braw.

Wha sees their bargain or they mak' it,
Be 't guid or ill, gin ance they tak' it,
An' mak' the pennyworth their ain,
Folk sudna murmur nor complain.
There's some blawn up wi' self-conceit,
An' others, think they're nae just blate:
The chiel that's wise beyond controul,
Fu' aften proves the greatest fool.

Ah! waes me for't! that's ae snaw-ba',
I sanna tak' it ill ava.
Now tent me man: — Ae night, last owk,
A sly an' wily plan I took:
But ablins ye ha'e heard o' this.
An' thinks I naething did amiss.

An' that I did, an' leugh my fill;
I sall avow ye manag'd well;
An' maist o' folk commends ye for't,
But some, I doubt, thought it nae sport,
Now frae yoursel' I wis' to ha'e 't,
An' sae I'm sure the truth I'll get.

Ye'll get it a', gin time permit,
But we maun shortly start to foot:
The day's far up, sae we must part,
We'll shortly meet gin a' be spar't.
A boddie, Davy, fin's relief,
Whan to a frien' they vent their grief.
Some cummers, by her invitation,
Had a' conven'd for recreation,
To spend 'o an orrow hour or sae,
An' get a sup o' Jeanie's tea.
They steppit butt as in they cam',
An' ilka cummer gat her dram.
Wow, fat o' compliments was gi'en,
Fu' gleeb the frien'ly phrases ran,
Wi' mistress this, an' mistress that,
An' ilka ane their honours gat.
Syne a' the news baith far any near,
Frae kirk an' market's gather'd here:
Fu mony pair was cried on Sunday,
An' wha's bridegroom an' bride on Monday.
Now ane explains the powerful art
To win an' keep a husband's heart,
An' fu a prudent wife, wi' ease,
Mith, wi' a smile, her husband please:
Ane tells fu mony lads she had,
An' wow fu well she was provid';
Fu chaste an' modest she behav'd;
An' ane, fu mony she deceiv'd:
Anither brags fat she brought wi' her,
An' fu his honour comes to see her:
Some cracks awa' about their marriage,
An some, the cause o' their miscarriage.
Anither glass gaed roun' them a',
But I was fain to win awa'.
I drank their healths, but car'd na by,
For I was drumly, sour, an' dry.
Sae benn I cam', an' left the cummers,
A pack o' scandilizing limmers!
Says to mysel', I'll need some caution
To put my plan in execution.
The kettle's now upo' the fire;
Sae to the barn I did retire,
Tobacco box, my knife, an' a',
An' shear'd it, unco fine an' sma'.
Syne in I cam', an' down I sat,
Till I a canny minute gat:
For I was mendin' at a sack,
An' left it there till I cam' back.
Now benn the floor she comes at last,
An' in her snout a waefu' blast!
Thinks I, there'll shortly rise a spree,
That storm is sure to fa' on me.
I gat some taunts baith sour an' snell,
That night fu I had shown mysel';
Affronted her an' a' the rest,
Ca'd me a rude unpolish'd beast.
She striv'd a wee to smore her spleen,
An' hide it frae the wives a-benn;
An' at the time she said but little,
As she was waitin' on the kettle.
The kettle's boil'd, the tea is maskit,
An' now I had a fearfu' task o' 't.
The pottie on the bink was set,
Syne butt the floor she took the gate;
Thinks I, there is nae time to lose,
Sae i' the pot slipt in the dose;
Says to mysel', I'm fairly rid o' 't,
Fatever after may betide o' 't.

Weel manag'd, lad, I sall admit.

Behad, the sport's but comin' yet:
The table now was spread wi' plenty,
Wi' a' thing unco nice an' dainty;
Fine buns an' biscuit, loaf and a',
An sucker white as driven snaw;
An' some red trock, they ca'd it jam,
I didna ken whare frae it cam';
Sweet butter, just as yellow's gowd,
I thought it a' was ill bestow'd;
(You're sure I wasna sair content,
For this was far frae use an' wont;)
An oval broad, fu' nicely paintit,
Frae Lon'on town her brither sent it;
There Bonaparte on horseback stood,
An' a' the sides o' 't stript wi' gowd:
Sae on the broad, in taste an' stile,
The pigs were plac'd a' rank an' file;
Her siller cutties glancin' clear,
Seem'd proud to tell she brought them wi' her.
Ance mair I beet gae face the thrang,
But Davy, lad, I badena lang;
As little said fan I was there,
Fu to get forth was a' my care.
An' now the tea is just in han',
But mark fat follow'd after, man:
Whan first the cup gaed fairly roun',
The tea's o'er strong, says cummer Brown;
It's rather harsh, quo' cummer Shaw,
It winna do wi' me ava;
Quo' cummer Black, the millert's mither,
It disna fit my palate neither;
Quo' I, sirs, gi'e't baith ream, an' sucker,
An' mak' it sweet gin it be bitter;
Quo' Jean, I'm sure it's of the best,
I'm wae it disna fit your taste;
I mixt some grains o' guid green tea
Amang the very best bohea;
His presence, sirs! cried cummer Smart,
It's ta'en me by the very heart:
Syne up gat Jean, an' took the pot,
An' in a passion forth she got,
An' threw its contents i' the close—
Thinks I, my lass, there is nae loss;
I'll strive to spen' you frae that trash,
That eats awa' sae muckle cash.
Before she cud win ben again,
For sickness cudna stan' her lane;
Wi' put an' row she gat her bed,
An' some beet haud their neipor's head.
Meg Brown, wi' grippin' by the hawls,
Just forth to get the air she crawls.
An'now some hameward took the get.
Tarn Brown' his wife maist half way met;
An' whan he saw his Meg sae dizzie,
Quo' Tam, ye, filthy drunken hussy!
Ye canna keep your feet the gether,
The road it winna baud you neither; 
An' ay whan Meg wad mint to spue,
He bann'd her for a drunken sow:
For Meg, ye ken, a glass can tip,
An' Tam himsel' whiles tak's a sup.
Now Janet Smart, an' Nanny Shaw,
Seem'd unco fain to win awa';
They grippet fast by ane anither.
The millert now cam' for his mither.
Sae I gat rid o' a' but Jean,
An' she's enough for me her lane.

Weel, Willie, gin your plan succeed,
To spen' her frae that foreign weed,
Ye'll be reputed for a wit.
Nae langer, Willie, we maun sit.
I wat ye've gi'en's an unco tale;
I'll be as honest, true, an' leal,
To a' your secrets as yoursel'.
Syne baith shook han's, an' bade farewell.


Charles Murray

He was born and raised in Alford, however he wrote much of his poetry while living in South Africa where he spent most of his working life as a successful Civil Engineer. His 1st volume, A Handful of Heather (1893), was privately printed and he withdrew it shortly after publication to rework many of the poems within it. His 2nd volume, Hamewith (1900), was much more successful. It was republished 5 times before he died and it is this volume for which he is best known. The title of the volume, which means Homewards in English, reflects his expatriate situation.  He returned to Scotland when he retired in 1924 and settled in Banchory not far from where he was brought up. There he died in 1941

He served in the Armed Forces during the 2nd Boer War and WW1 and in 1917 produced the volume, The Sough o' War. In 1920 he published his last volume, In the Country Places. After his death a final volume of poetry, Last Poems was published by the Charles Murray Memorial Trust in 1969.

Gin I was God by Charles Murray (1864 - April - 1941).

GIN I was God, sittin' up there abeen,
Weariet nae doot noo a' my darg was deen,
Deaved wi' the harps an' hymns oonendin' ringin',
Tired o' the flockin' angels hairse wi' singin',
To some clood-edge I'd daunder furth an', feth,
Look ower an' watch hoo things were gyaun aneth.
Syne, gin I saw hoo men I'd made mysel'
Had startit in to pooshan, sheet an' fell,
To reive an' rape, an' fairly mak' a hell
O' my braw birlin' Earth,--a hale week's wark--
I'd cast my coat again, rowe up my sark,
An' or they'd time to lench a second ark,
Tak' back my word an' sen' anither spate,
Droon oot the hale hypothec, dicht the sklate,
Own my mistak', an, aince I cleared the brod,
Start a'thing ower again, gin I was God.

a dis she think she is? - Mary Johnston

Fa dis she think she is
she’s jist a cottar man’s dother

she’s jist like wirsels

e baillie’s quine
him aat his fower loons
she’s e allest

piece o damnt nonsense
keeping a quine on at e skweel
she should be oot workin

says she’s gyan til e Varsity
fit’s wrang wi workin in a shop
says she’s gyan ti dee psychology

fit’s aat fen it’s at hame
fit eese is dirt like aat til a body
better aff at e Dough School

an hiv ye heard e wye she spiks
aa posh an anglified
ye’d think she’d a bool in her mooth

fa dis she think she is ony wye
she’s jist a cottar man’s dother
she’s jist like wirsels.

Charlotte (Lottie) Sinclair, who died last year at age 97, wrote poems, some of which were in the Doric and published in the local press. The poem 'Div ye min' was found among her papers and it was assumed she must have written it. - Ann B

Aberdeen of Old     by: Forsyth, William

The toun had then but ten short streets;
To ilka hoose there was a yaird;
But these auld yairds grew sturdy reets
An’ ilka gate had aye its gaird.

The Don doon by the Braid Hill ran,
The tide weesh up the Castle Brae;
An’ where lang miles o’ pier-wark stan’
A half a score o’ birlinns lay.

Where flowed the tide by Tarnty Mill
The iron horse has noo his sta’;
Frae Justice Port to Windmill Hill
Was wavin’ green wi’ yairdins a’.

The Woo’manhill wis ae green knowe,
An’ up the Denburn’s bonny bank
The Play Grun lay in Gilcolm’s howe,
The scene o’ mony a merry prank.

An’ then-a-days the quintra-side
To Brimman an’ the Loch o’ Skene
Wis ae bleak muir o’ sax miles wide,
Wi’ scarce a single patch o’ green,

Ae patch o’ corn, ae rig o’ girse,
Excep’ aside some cottar’s biel’;
When reivin’ caterans came frae Birse
They scarcely saw a cow to steal.

Thon Heilan’ rogues war honest sae far,
Mair than some wham I micht mention,
They toom’t a byre wi’ nae palaver
On the score o’ gweed intention.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013