Cutty Tales

The Auld Kirk – Souter Davie

The Auld Kirk – Souter Davie

In the nyneteent centurie, Scots wes still uised i the poupit bi sum meinisters, an i thae days, hell-fyre sermons war the order o the day, an meinisters warna blate about singlin oot parteiklar members o the congregation for public flytin.  The’r a whein droll stories anent incidents in the kirk langsyne, an sum o thir war recordit in a buik cawed Thistledown publisht bi Alexander Gardner in 1895.


Ae minister wes wairnin his congregation that i the tyme ti cum the wad be “weepin an wailin an gnashin o teeth,” an whan sum o the aulder members o his flock pyntit oot that they haed nae teeth in thair heids ti gnash wi, they war gien the solemn aunsir, “Teeth wul be provydit.”


Sum o the characters that leeved syne haed a style an kest o mynd that haes nou passed awa.  Ane o thaim wes preachin a sermon on the text, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” an ti impress on his hearers the solemn truith in this ensenyie, he gaed on, “Ay ma freins, binna ye repent ye sal aw perish, juist as shuirlie as A’m gaun ti ding the guts oot that mukkil blue flee that’s lichtit on ma Bible.”  Houevir, whan he lifted his haund for ti clour the lyfe oot the flee, here it bizzed awa, smertlyke.  Syne he dirdit the buik wi his neive wi aw his micht and raired out at the tap o his vyce, “Ma freins, the’r a chaunce for ye yit!”


Anither meinister, frae Aiberdeenshire, that wes preachin on the sleikitness an ill-trickit weys o Satan, stappit aw at aince in the mids o his sermon an exclaimed, “See him sittin thare i the crap o the waw!  What sal we dae wi him, ma brethren?  He winna hang, for he’s as licht as a feather; naither wul he droun, ma brethren, for he can soum like a cork; . . . but we’l shuit him wi the gun o the Gospel.”  Syne he pat himsell in the poseition o a bodie pyntin a gun at an objek forenent him, eimitatit the bellum o a shot, an cryit out, “He’s doun lik a deid craw!”

Granny’s Saicret – Irene Howat 

We aa hae saicrets, e’en grannies, an A wint tae tell ye yin o mine. Whan A wis a wee lassie we wur pit tae beddie early an the licht wis pit oot. Thair wis nae readin tae aa oors in thon days; beddies wur fur sleepin. The chaumer door wis left apen a wee keek an ower ma twilt wis a narra streek o licht. A cudnae read be it, bit a cud see jist eneuch tae stoap me frae faain ower richt awa. Nicht efter nicht A’d lie thair an think on things.


An it maun hae bin whan A wis thinkin on things thit the thocht cam intae ma heid. A thocht o a wye o gittin oot an awa. We aa hae saicrets, e’en grannies, an this is yin o mine. A thocht it aa thru an decidit thit ma saicret, whitevver it wis, cud tak me onywhaur A wintit tae gang onywhaur in history, onywhaur in the warld, onywhaur yit tae cum. Jist onywhaur. Neist A hud tae wark oot hoo tae git gaun. Thon wis whan the nem cam intae ma heid. A’d caa it a tickboat an it wid tak me whaur A wintit tae gae in yin tick. An whit wye wad A meesure a tick? A tick wis the blink o ma ee. Sae whan I’d decidit whar I wintit tae gae, I’d blink ma ee an bi thair!


We a hae saicrets, e’en grannies, an hoo ma tickboat warked is yin o mine. A mist hae bin aboot eicht whan A ineventit ma tickboat an A kent richt awa some o the bits A wintit tae gang. An here’s hoo A kent. Ma faither, e wad be yer great-granda, yince wis awa boolin fur twa three days an he broucht me a praisent whan e cam hame. It wis a buik caaed The Girls’ Book of Heroines. An it wis stapped fu o cracks aboot real lassies wha hud growen up tae dae the maist wunnerfu things. An here’s sumthin.


Nae lang syne A leuked the beuk up in yon eBay. Thair it wis! So A bocht it saicent haun an it coast me mair nor ma faither pyed fur a new yin, an awfy loat mair. Bit is wis wirth it. Siller weel spent. The ferst crack in the buik wis aboot Elizabeth Smith wha, in 1843, wi er man an seiven weans, jined a wagon train in the Great Migration an wint aa the wye frae Missouri in America tae the fearfu Columbia Gorge. Whan they gat thair, the faimilies as made the wagon train spleet up an wint thair ain weys. Er man felled trees an bun thaim thegither tae mak a raft fur tae gang thru the Gorge.


Noo, the faimily hud naethin bi wie o siller. Sae the fechtie wuman gien Injuns ocht thay cud spare o clathes tae git tatties fur er man an weans, wi jist a wee sait fur ersel. Er man teuk thair wagon tae bits an stawed it oan the raft. The weans wur pit oan, thair pairritch pat, whit plenishins they hud an aa, an anither faimily tae. Oh, t’wis a frichtsome thing tae gang thru the Gorge. Bi the time they’d won the faur end o’t icetangles war hingin frae awthin, e’en frae the weans’ snoterie nebs. Efter aa thon the faimilies hud tae bide in the snaw waur they wur fur nine hale days tae a boat cam thit cud tak thaim doon the strath. Barfitted they wur an foonert, but aa, een the bairnie, wis in life, jist.


It teuk the Smiths seiven months tae win frae Missouri tae thair new hame. Bit they gat thair. We aa hae saicrets, e’en grannies, an thon faimily is yin o mine, fur A doot thit onie ither bodie will hae mind o thaim. Ye’ll be wunnerin whit this aa his tae dae wi ma tickboat. Sae, A laid doon unner ma twilt, blinkit ma een an apened thaim an thair A wis in the wagon train! In ma mind’s ee A cud see the Smiths git tae the tap o the Gorge an feel hoo frichted they war tae gang doon it.


In ma lugs A cud herken the watter, the yaumers o the weans an the crashin o the trees faain doon. A raxed oot ma hauns an jaloused the icy cauld, the sair chacks, the ruch clathes. An in ma mou A cud nearaboot lip the warm pairridge an feel it gaun doon an leepin ma thrapple. A wad think o ma feet an ken aa aboot ma pair, sair mools. An A wid try tae think on whit A cud smell. Thair micht be broath bilin or wat hodden gray or wean’s seeck. Yin bi yin A yased aa ma senses tae reenge aroon whaur ma tickboat hud landit. S’a strynge thing, A dinna think A eer cam hame bi tickboat fur A aye fell soun asleep wi aa ma reenging.


We aa hae saicrets, een grannies, an whit it wis lyke tae gae doon thit fearfu Gorge is yin o mine. Wid the pair o ye lyke a raik in ma tickboat? Whit? Ye wint tae gang bi yersels! Naw, it’s ower shin fur thit. The twa o ye jist lie thair an A’ll tak ye tae meet anither bodie frae ma buik. A’ll coont up tae three an ye’ve tae blink yer een. Then A’ll tell ye whaur we ur whan we git thair. Yin … twa … three!


Guidness me, we’re heich in the air in a wee airieplane! Noo, lat’s yase aa oor senses. Whit dae we see? It’s a wuman thit’s fleein the airieplane, an she’s no verra auld. Luk whit she’s weirin. She’s gat oan a broon lather jaikit thit gangs richt up unner er thrapple. An she’s weiring a broon lather helmit tae match it. It sits ticht roon er heid an buckles unnerneath er chin. She’s goggles oan as weel and nae wunner fur it’s foonerin cauld an er een wid be jeelled shut itherwyse. Hae ye tak tent o er lather troosers an er bits? She’s a rigged oot fur the cauld.


Herken. Aa A cun hear is the airieplane’s motor. It’s roarin lyk a bull thit’s loast its puggie. A’m gonna rax oot an touch the side o the plane. Guidness me, it’s freezing cauld! It verra near poud the skin aff ma haun! It’s mibbe no a guid idea to rax oot tae ony mair. Gie yir tangs a shottie. A dinnae taste onythin barring jist a cauld droothiness. Sae thit lees us wi oor nebs. Dae ye smell ile? A smell it an it’s nae wunner for the wuman’s lather jaikit is clartit wi the stuff. Noo thit we ur in the airieplane A say we sty pit an see whit cums o’t.


A’ll tell ye whits gaun oan an ye cun sit thaur an enjy yer ferst tickboat traik. The wuman is caaed Amy Johnson an it’s the 8th o Mai in the year 1930. Six days sine she pit her airieplane up at Croydon, jist sooth o London. By the by, the airieplane’s a de Havilland Gipsy Moth caaed ‘Jason’. Noo, er ye no stammygastert thit yer granny’s sae weel informit?


We’re comin doon fur fuel at Karachi in India. The three o’s ur richt here wi Amy Johnson makin heestory! Jist leuk at thon! Aa the menfowk ur weerin turbans an whit leuks lyke thair jammies. The weemen hae oan braw colouret lang froaks with matchin shawls happit roon thaim. Bit the heat! It’s het eneuch to birn iz. We’ll jist bide whar we ur an see whar we gae neist. An, gin I’m no wrang, we’re jist aboot tae heid tae Australia!


Amy Johnson wis the verra ferst wuman tae flee aa the wye frae England tae Australia an ye an me hae gaun wi er, efter a menner o spekin. We aa hae saicrets, een grannies, an oor flicht wi Amy Johnson is yin o oors. Whit’s thit yer speirin? Ye wint to ken gin aa the fowk A want tae see wur in the buik ma faither gied me. Naw, no aa. Gin ye’r up for’t, A’ll tak ye wi me tae somewhaur naebodie hud eer been afore, an A mean naebodie! My big brither yased tae hae a comic caaed The Eagle an yin o the fowk in ‘The Eagle’ wis cried Dan Dare. He cud traivil thru space an onywhaur else he wintit.


Yin nicht, an A mind it weel, A decidit tae gang wi Dan Dare tae git a nearhaun view o the rings aroon Saturn. Ma skuil maister hud bin tellin us aboot the planets an A wis fair taen wi Saturn. A thoucht it was awfa braw an A jist fancied gaen thair. Dan Dare wis the perfit yin tae gae wi. Thit nicht A cudnae wait tae gang tae ma beddie an ma mither thoucht A wis seecknin. A coorit doon fur a kent she’d cam in tae see gin A’d gaun ower. A lat on the same wye ilka nicht. As shin as she wis doon the stairs A lay on ma rig, sneckit ma een fur exack yin tick an apened thaim up agin.


Ma chaumer wis fu o wirlin, swirlin, birnlin lichts aa the colours o the rainbaw. Dan Dare wis thair wi a glaikit luk on is face. E’d no seen the like afore. E winked is ee at me an we wur aff. The maister hud telt us thit the rings roon Saturn wur fu o gas. A faur kend Scot caaed James Clerk Maxwell hid sayed thit lang syne. Bit Dan Dare an me cun tell ye e wis wrang. The rings ur mad o slippery, slithery, shiny stuff. A floomed doon the rid ring for zillions o miles, richt tae Saturn’s sooth pole an thoucht A’d nevver sclim up agin tae A saw thit the yella ring gaed up the wye. Up an doon, roon an roon, frae pole tae pole an back agin we gaed. An A’ll tell ye, A wis shair A cud herken the sters lauchin at the pair o is. A wid hae styed thair bit fur ma mither missin me.


Yin day, mony a lang year efterwirds, A fell doon the stairs an stotted ma heid aff a waa. A saw sters gaun roon an roon an roon. It mindit me o ma veesit tae Saturn. We aa hae saicrets, e’en grannies, an till noo ma veesit tae Saturn is bin yin o mine. ‘Whit yin o yer traivles cud ye no see past?’ A’ve nae twa doots aboot thit. Gin ye coorie doon aside me fur anither wee whiley, A’ll tell ye a aboot it. Whin A wis wee we aa want tae the kirk ilka Sabbath jist is ye dae yersels. Bit efter oor denner ma mither wad gae aff tae her beddie fur an oor. Thon wis the only brek she hud in er wik. Weel, whan A wis aboot ten A thoucht tae masel, gin ma mither cun gang tae er beddie, thin sae can A – an it wid gie me anither wee whilie oan ma tickboat! An the best o it wis thit in the Sabbath Skuil we wur telt sik guid cracks thit Sabbath bi Sabbath A want aff tae whaurere ma Sabbath Skuil teacher hud tain me. A want tae see Daniel wi is lions, A dandered in the Gerdin wi Adam an Eve. A even wis in the boattie whan Jesus telt the wun an the swa tae be quate – an they wur! Bit thair wis yin A looed abin the ithers. Ur ye ready?


A did ma uswal yin, twa an three, bit A dinna ken whit wint a wee bit wrang fur I gaed thair jist a bit late an hud tae ask the wuman aside me whit wis gaun oan fur A wis staunin richt oan the ootside o a gaitherin . She telt me thit fowk hud brocht thair freen tae Jesus an the freen wis deef an cudnae spek hardly a wird. Maist lyke e hud aye bin deef or he wad hae larned hoo tae spek mair nor e did. Whit cam neist wis fair dumfoonerin! Frae no bein able tae see, A wis richt in the middle o the steer fur Jesus broucht the man oot frae amang the fowk tae richt nearhand whaur A wis! A cud see an herken awthing! Noo, A’ve gat tae git it richt fur ye. Ferst, the Lord Jesus pit is hauns intae the pair man’s lugs an A wunnert whit was gaun oan. Thin e sput oan is feengers an raxed oot tae scuff the man’s tang. Thon wis whin a jaloused whit e wis daen. Ma auld granny wis deef an we yased te mak signs she wid unnerstaun insteed o spekin tae er. Jesus was daen jist thit. He hud shawn the man thit he wis gaunae dae sumhin tae is lugs an dae sumhim else tae is tang!


Noo, A wis e’en nearby eueuch tae herken tae whit Jesus sayed. He luked up tae heeven, seched an sayed in the man’s ain leid, ‘Be apened!’ An A cud see frae is een thit e hud herkened the wards the Maister sayed! He wisnae deef ony mair!  It wis a meericle an thair wis anither yin tae cum. Nae shinner hud the man’s lugs bin apened thin e stertit sayin wards is lugs hud nevver heard! It wis lyke me takin the boat tae Stornoway wioot a ward o the leid an bein free wi Gaelic as shin as A gat aff the boat!


Afore A quat Galilee thon day A jist thocht hoo pooerfae a God an hoo cannie a man wis Jesus no tae mak a grawn man learn wards lyke a wean; no tae hae im lauched it. An A’ll tell ye anither thing, bit it didnae cum tae me till a guid while efterwirds. A ken wey Jesus didnae apen the man’s lugs whan e wis in the mids o the gaitherin, wey e teuk im a wee bit awa an wey I gat sic a guid view. Gin e’d no din that the ferst thing the pair man wid o herd wid hae bin the ricket the fowk war makin. Is it wis, whan Jesus led im awa awbody wis quate an watchful. Sae the verra ferst soun the man herd wis the Maister’s vice. Wid the twa o ye lyke tae chuse somewhar tae gae an tak me wi yis? Ye’d lyke whit? I dinnae ken aboot thit, bit wi cud gie it a try. A’ll coont tae three an the twa o ye can tell me whit’s gaun on. ‘Luk!’ screched Willie. ‘The gems stertit. A’m a beater an ye’r a seeker.’


‘Granny, ye’r the yin wi the quaffle, sae ye’r the keeper.’ ‘Jist tell me whit tae dae an A’ll see gin A cun dae it.’ ‘Thon’s the pitch an thon’s the goals,’ roart Lizzie. ‘Bit thur’s sax o thaim!’ A sayed, fair conflummixed. ‘Aye,’ Willie screched ower the deen. ‘The beaters yase bludgers an the seekers hae the gawden snitch. We hae tae ficht it aa oot tae the en whan the yins wi the maist pints wins.’ It wis jist whan Willie stoaped tellin me whit tae dae thit I jaloused A wis rydin a besom! Thin, aa o a siddin, we wur hame agin.


A’ll hae tae learn the weans hoo to tae pit thair hale heid intae bein whar they ur, fur is shin as ye lit yer mind wanner ye fin yersel back hame. Whit a joab thir mither hud waulkin the weans the neist mornin! A wis aa richt fur a hidnae slept a weenk. Whanevver A shut ma een A wis wheestlin thru the air on ma besom efter the gawden snitch. A nevver ackwallie gat it fur naebodie teuk time tae shew me hoo tae yase ma quaffle. An anither thing. The weans hud a joab explainin their broozles tae thir mither. Ma lass wisnae up fur thaim baith haein faaed oot thair beddies an she gaed me a maist curious luk.


A’ll awn up tae doverin aff an oan this forenoon bit thair wis nae thocht o sleep in the efternin. I fun the weans’ Harry Potter buik shin eueuch bit it teuk me a whil tae fin the bit aboot quidditch. Weans’ beuks wur no as lang as thon yin whan A wis wee. It’ll mebbe tak a whil, bit I’m gonnae larn hoo richt tae play quidditch an stammygaster the pair o thaim wi ma wittin!


Thit nicht A held a summit tryst wi the weans an haundit ower ma tickboat tae the neist generation bit yin. Thair wur jist twa rules. Yin – they’ve tae gae thegither tae they git yased tae haunlin it. An twa – they’ve tae speir me tae jyne thaim ony time thay’re gaun tae play quidditch. We aa hae saicrets, e’en grannies, an I’ll tell ye yin o mine. A canna wait tae git back oan ma besom. I hinnae hid sic dafferie sin Dan Dare wint wi me tae Saturn!


This story wan 1st prize an the Robert McLellan Tassie in Sangschaw 2018