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Grandfather tells the story of the first Tartan
A Bible story written on St Andrew's Day 2002 by Francis Kerr Young

"Erchie! Git yer jaicket oan - the Meenister’s at the door!" Isabelle whispered urgently to her husband.

But it was too late, Reverend Tulloch had already entered the room. He nodded to Archie as Isabelle introduced her brother who was on a visit from Canada.

"Ah yes," said the minister, recognizing the name. "My lads and I heard your story, ‘Grandfather Tells the Children the Story of the Great Flood’ on the Internet just the other night. It was - ahem - interesting."

"Ah’m gled yer sons liked it Meenister," came the polite response.

"Oh, they are not my sons," replied the minister. "Our church sponsors a company of the Boys’ Brigade. Do you have any other biblical tales on the go?"

"Ah micht," hedged Isabelle’s brother.

"Would you mind reciting one at our next BB meeting?"

"When’s that?"

"Thursday night at seven-thirty."

"I’m very sorry Meenister. I flee oot o’ Glesga oan Thursday mornin’."

"Ah well, that’s too bad . . . No, no, Isabelle, don’t bother with the tea." urged the Reverend. I can just stay a moment. I thought that I’d just drop in since I was in the neighbourhood." He reached for the door handle and explained his mission: "I’m on my way to see old Ena McLaughlin. I loaned her one of my prize books and I’d like it back. It’s part of a set, y’know. She must have finished reading it by now. After all, it’s been eight years! Goodnight, it’s been nice meeting you," he called over his shoulder and left.

"Too bad ye couldna dae that story," said Archie, reaching for the TV remote. "Ah’d liked tae heard that yin masel’."

An advertisement bloomed across the television screen announcing that Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat would by playing all next week in Glasgow.

"Ye ken, Erchie, ye jist micht . . . Dae ye hae a tape recorder by ony chance?"

* * *

Yince upoan a time in the Bible there wis a fella ca’d Jacob. Noo, Jacob wis a rich man. Ah think he made his money in construction, for he cam’ up wi’ a new type o’ ladder. Onywey he could afford loats o’ wives wha naturally hid loats o’ bairns. When his favourite missus birthed a wee boy ca’d Joseph, Auld Jacob wis fair ta’en wi’ the wean an’ it wisnae long until Joseph became Jacob’s favorite son.

Weel, wi’ human nature bein’ whit it is, it didnae tak’ lang fur a’ his ither brithers tae git jealous. Especially when Jacob wis giein’ a’ the licht joabs tae Joseph an’ feedin’ him sweeties a’ the time.

When the auld man wisnae lookin’ some o’ his mair vicious brithers wid play rotten tricks oan him. Bit Joseph widnae clype. Every yince in a while, Jacob wid catch yin o’ the brithers in the act an’ git a swift sondle up the sheuch fur his trouble.

Yin day Jacob wis sittin’ in his tent when he heard somebody singin’. He keeked out the door flap an’ saw this auld guy hurlin’ a barra wi’ a loom oan it. ‘If it wisnae fur the weavers whit wid we dae?’ the auld sowel sang at the tap o’ his vice.

"Here you!" shouts Jacob. "Whit ur ye daein’ oan ma land?"

The stranger stoapped singin’ an’ sat doon oan an erm o’ the barra. "Man, it’s a hoat yin the day!" He dabbed at his broo wi’ a cloot. "Is yer name Jacob?"

"Aye, it is - an’ ye hivnae answered ma question."

"Weel then, Ah’ve cam’ tae the richt man," began the stranger. "Ah saw yer lads back there shearin’ the sheep. Eh, ma name’s Hamish, by the wey. They sent me tae see ye."

"Ah’m still waitin’."

"Ah’m a weaver," said Hamish. He pinted at some o’ Jacob’s wimen busy spinnin’. "Ah can

weave some o’ yon yarn intae cloth fur ye."

"We dae a’ oor ain weavin’," stated Jacob.

"Aye, ye probably dae," agreed Hamish. "Bit ye dinnae hae dyes like Ah’ve goat. An’ ye dinnae hae the skill or patterns that match the weft exactly wi’ the warp. Lookit here," he continued, haudin’ oot the cloot whit hid syne dried in a’ yon desert heat.

Jacob gauped at the braw pattern o’ colours. "Man!’ he exclaimed. "Could ye mak’ me a coat o’ this stuff? Ah’m lookin’ for somethin’ special for ma favourite son’s birthday," Jacob added.

Hamish opened a wee box oan his barra and nodded. "Aye, Ah think Ah’ve goat enough dyes here tae dae the joab."

Jacob stared at the rainbow hues asked Hamish whaur they cam’ frae.

"They cam’ frae whaur Ah cam’ frae, an island beyond the Pillars o’ Hercules," said Hamish. It’s ca’d the Land o’ the Gaels.

"Galls?"

"Na, Na. Gaels," Hamish affirmed. "It’s the folk frae the south o’ the same island that has a’ the gall."

"Weel onywey," said Jacob. "Gang aheid an’ mak’ a coat fur ma wee Josie."

"Fine," smiled Hamish an’ began tae set up his tent.

Some weeks later, maitters came tae a heid when Jacob gied his wee Josie a braw plaid made o’ Jacobite tartan. The brithers, of coorse, complained tae nae avail. "Why fur should Ah gie a’ you steummurs guid claes?" he asked. "Ye dinnae keep yersel’s neat an’ tidy like wee Josie here. Luk at ye - ye’re like a squaad o’ tinks! Awa’ wi’ ye!" He banished them a’ oot o’ his sicht.

When hervest time rolled aroon, a’ the brithers were oot wi’ their heucks wheechin’ doon the ears o’ ripe corn. Efter they’d tied up a’ the stooks, the brithers sat doon fur a cup o’ tea an’ a jeely piece. It wis then that wee Josie telt them aboot his dream. He’d dreamt that a’ the stooks in field bowed doon ane special stook.

"Whit diz that mean?" asked a brither.

"It means that ye’ll a’ bow doon tae me someday," said Josie

"Hoodye ken thaat?" roared anither brither.

"A while back a prophet telt Faither that Ah wid be able tae interpret dreams," explained Josie. "No’ only that," he added, "He also said that Ah wis fey."

"F’ae whaur?’ asked anither brither. "That’s whit Ah’d like tae ken!"

"Weel, Ah’m no’ staun’in’ fur this,’ protested yet anither brither. "Let’s gang an’ see Faither an’ hae it oot wi’ him."

When they goat back tae the ranch hoose (actually it wis a wee but an’ ben made o’ sheep an’ camel skins), they sat doon in a circle aroon’ the auld man. It wis then that Josie laid his ither dream oan them. "Last nicht Ah dreamt that the sun, the moon, an’ eleeven stars knelt doon tae me."

"Dae ye mean tae tell me that me, an’ yer mither, an’ a’ yer brithers will a’ bow doon tae ye?" asked Jacob.

"It’s with Ah dreamt Faither," replied Josie.

"Weel then, it must be richt," agreed Jacob. "Ye’re gaun tae be famous some day." He glowered at his ither sons and warned them. "You lot better watch yer step an’ gang canny oan wee Josie here."

So no’ long efter, the brithers made up their minds that they hid tae get rid o’ Josie. Oot oan the hills they plotted oan how they were gaun tae dae it. "Let’s jist dirk him then chuck him in a deep hole in the grun’."

"We cannae dirk oor ain brither," protested Reuben. "Let’s jist drap him in the deep hole, that wey, we’ll no’ spill the bluid o’ oor brither."

"Ah’m no’ diggin’ nae deep hole in this heat!" wis heard as anither brither wi’ a different mither goat intae a dither.

"Och ye’ll no’ hae tae dae ony diggin’," soothed Judah, yet anither brither. "Ah came across a deep cundy jist the ither day when Ah went fur a geme o’ twa’s up."

"Whit’s twa’s up?"

"Ye place two shekels oan a wee flat bit o’ wid an’ then toss them in the air so that they birl."

"Whit fur?"

"Where did ye get twa shekels?"

"Dae ye mind yon lamb that we fun’ deid last week?"

"The wan crawlin’ wi’ maggots?"

"Aye, Ah selt it tae a guy fur stew."

"The meat wis rotten! Ye’ll hae pizened him!"

"Och, he wis jist a Samaritan. When did ony wan o’ them dae a guid turn fur a Jew?"

Judah ignored this banter an’ explained the rules o’ the geme. Bit his brithers wurny too interested. So he rolled ower tae hae a wee nap.

"Listen," broke in anither brither. "This isnae solvin’ oor problem, whaur’s yon cundy?"

"Oh, Josie . . ."

Later that nicht the brithers were sittin’ roon’ a campfire hivin’ their tea when Judah showed up. He sat doon an’ sighed.

"Whit’s wrang wi’ ye?" ane brither asked.

"Och, Ah loast a’ ma money at twa’s up."

"How did ye manage that?"

Judah began by tellin’ them the latest news. "There’s a caravan o’ Ishmeelites doon the road frae here. They’re exportin’ spices, myrrh, slaves, an’ stuff tae Egypt. They’ve goat a special escort frae some king. Man, they fellas like tae play the odds. In fact, they’re ca’d the King’s Oddfellows." He gazed aroon’. "Whaur‘s Josie?"

"We chucked him in yon pit," he wis telt.

"Did ye kill him first?"

"Na, na. He’ll either sterve or some pard’ll get him."

"Listen," says Judah. "Let’s sell him tae the Ishmeelites. They can tak’ him aff tae Egypt an’ we’ll hae a few bawbees tae jingle in oor pockets."

So the next moarnin’ the brithers hauled Josie oot o’ the pit.

"Whit aboot that fancy plaid o’ his?" asked a brither.

"Tak’ it aff him an’ sell it."

"Na, na, if the auld man sees it, he’ll ken we did somethin’ tae Josie."

"Whit aboot slashin’ it an’ then dip it it bluid? We’ll tell Faither that a lion goat him."

"That’s a guid idea. Whaur are ye gaun tae get the bluid?"

"We’ll yase the bluid o’ yon lamb we hid fur supper last nicht."

"Ah wis gaun tae mak’ black pudden wi’ that fur the moarn’s breakfast."

"We’ll jist hiv’ tae get by oan parrich."

Noo Josie wisnae too happy listenin’ tae a’ this. "Ye’re no’ takin’ ma cloak," he said.

"Och, tak’ it aff him," said Judah, an’ a tug-o’-war ensued.

"Dae Ah hiv tae dae everythin’ fur masel’?" asked Judah. He drew his whinger, slashed through the plaid, an’ left puir Josie haudin’ a wee bit cloot.

The stour o’ the caravan wis settlin’ oan the southern horizen as the brithers were coontin’ their bluid money.

"Whit ur we gaun tae spend it oan?" asked a brither.

"Weel, Ah’m gaun tae try an’ dooble mine," said Judah, strollin’ away.

"Whaur ur ye gaun?"

"Ah gaun tae see a guy ca’d Onan. Ah hear that he’s goat a tossin’ school ower in the next glen."

* * *

Although Josie hid mair than his share o’ troubles, he wis shair tae land oan his feet. Fur ye see, the Almighty wis ayeways watchin’ so that things didnae get too for oot o’ haun’. So when he goat tae Egypt Josie wis selt tae Potiphar, a non-commissioned officer o’ Pharaoh. Noo Potiphar wis quite ta’en oan wi’ Josie’s abilities tae manage, so he gave him a guid joab as gaffer o’ a’ his property. Josie set tae this task wi’ a will an’ soon the property wis bringin’ in loats o’ money.

Phar, as everybody ca’d him fur short, wis very pleased with Josie’s work an’ they became awfy guid freends. Of coorse, in front of ootsiders, Josie wis still a slave an’ he hid tae address his pal by his name an’ rank, Phar NC. Bit as time went by, maist o’ their visitors kent they were a team: Phar NC an’ Josie.

Still, a black cloud loomed up the horizon in the shape o’ Phar NC’s missus. She began tae fancy Josie an’ asked him fur a bit o’ slap an’ tickle. Josie telt her that he couldnae dae onythin’ that wid hurt his pal. Besides Phar NC widnae be lang in slappin’ his tickler oan the blacksmith’s anvil an’ Josie didnae waant tae be a soprano . So the wife became a wummin scorned an’ she telt Phar NC that Josie wis aye efter her fur some slap an’ tickle. So afore Josie kent whit wis happening, he ended up in the Pharoah’s jile.

Noo the chief jiler, or the Captain o’ the Guard as he wis ca’d, took a likin’ tae Josie at first sight. That wis because The Lord goat intae the jiler’s subconscious an’ gave him the idea that his new inmate wis the bees’ knees. Efter the jiler fun’ oot that he could trust Josie, he gave the sowel some cushy numbers. Soon Josie wis runnin’ the jint, although his haun’s an’ ankles were still kept shackled. It wis no’ lang efter when he hid some mair company. It seems like Pharaoh goat teed aff wi’ his chief butler and his chief baker and they were ordered tae decorate the wa’s o’ the jile. Since Josie goat the joab o’ feedin’ them, they became quite freendly.

Three months went by an’ ane nicht, each man hid a dream. (How they could sleep hingin’ oan a wa’ is beyond me.) Bit onywey, the men were worried an’ wun’ert whit their dreams meant. Josie came tae the rescue, so tae speak.

The butler telt Josie his dream first: "Ah dreamt that Ah wis staun’in’ in front o’ a vine. This vine hid three branches which budded richt afore ma een. Then they blossomed, an’ turned intae big bunches o’ ripe grapes. Jist like that." He tried tae snap his fing’rs bit there wis nae feelin’ in his erm. "Next thing Ah ken is that Ah’ve goat Pharaoh’s quaich in ma haun’. So Ah squeezed the grapes intae the quaich an’ gave it tae Pharaoh."

"Ok," said Josie. "This means that in three days time ye’ll be servin’ Pharaoh his bevy again. He’s gaun’ tae gie ye yer auld joab back."

The chief butler’s face lit up an’ he thanked Josie fur interpretin’ his dream.

"Aye weel," acknowledged Josie. "Dinnae forget tae tell Pharaoh aboot me an’ mibi he’ll let me oot the slammer tae."

"Heh, whit aboot me?" asked the chief baker.

"Aye, ok. Tell us aboot yer dream."

"Weel, in ma dream, Ah hid three baskets oan ma heid. The tap basket wis fu’ o’ tattie scones, pancakes, Ayrshire shortbreid, a’ kinds of terts, an’ pies. Then a wheen o’ craws flappit doon an’ et them a’. Whit does it a’ mean Josie?"

"They’re no’ ca’d a wheen o’ craws," Josie said afore correctin’ him. "They’re ca’d a murder o’ craws - as ye’ll fun’ oot in three days time."

The baker’s mooth drapped open. "Eh - whit exactly dae ye mean Josie?"

"In three days time - " Josie drew a fing’r across his thrapple. " - you’ll be the craws’ denner."

The chief baker moaned and cried, bit three days later it a’ cam’ tae happen.

Bit the chief butler forgot a’ aboot Josie. Twa years later Pharaoh dreamt that he stood by the river an’ watched seeven fat coos cam’ oot the waater an’ feed oan rich green grass. Then seeven skinny kine cam’ oot the waater an’ eyed up the fat yins. An’ afore he kent it the mangy kye had et a’ the fat yins.

The next nicht Pharaoh hid anither dream. This time there wis seeven ripe ears oan a healthy stalk o’ corn. An’ shair enough the seeven lean lugs o’ corn, blasted by the east wind, hiv grown up aside the guid yins. When the gey driech corn et up a’ the guid ears o’ corn, Pharaoh woke up in a cauld sweat. He ca’d a’ his advisors oot their scratchers an’ telt them that he waanted tae ken whit the dreams meant.

It wis then that the butler minded aboot Josie an’ he telt Pharaoh aboot his experience. Afore lang Josie wis wheecht oot the jile, gi’en a bath, an’ kneelin’ in front o’ Pharaoh.

"The dream is yin," Josie began. "The Lord is warning ye whit is aboot tae happen. The seeven fat kine an’ the seeven ears o’ guid corn are yin an’ represent seeven guid years o’ fermin’. The seeven skinny coos an’the seeven wabbit ears o’ corn, blasted by the east wind, represent the seeven years o’ famine that’ll foly the seeven years o’ plenty." Josie stoapped fur a braith.

"Pharaoh, whit Ah suggest is that ye should fun’ yersel’ a wise an’ honest man tae haundle this fur ye. He should be allowed tae hire a team o’ experts tae gang a’ ower Egypt durin’ the seeven years o’ plenty an’ collect aboot a fifth o’ the hervest. A’ this grub should be stored in yer cities ready tae be haunded oot tae the folk when the famine comes."

"That’s a grand idea!" said Pharaoh. "An’ ye ken whit? Ah’m gaun tae gie ye the joab. An’ no’ only that, Ah’m gaun tae pit ye in charge o’ the hale o’ Egypt, includin’ me. Ah’ll hing oantae ma throne, o’ coorse, bit ye’ll be runnin’ the show itherwise. Here’s ma ring an’ some fresh linen claes. An’ ye’d better hing this chain o’ gowd aroon’ yer neck. It’ll gie ye a bit o’ class an’ mak’ ye look the pairt."

So Josie hid it made in the shade. Pharaoh even lined him up wi’ a high priest’s dochter fur a wife. Although he liked fine the linen kilts that the Egyptians wore, Josie still thocht aboot the braw plaid that his faither gave him. He still hid the wee bit o’ tartan frae the day his brithers selt him tae the Ishmeelites. So he passed the word fur a weaver wha could mak’ him a tartan kilt. Yin by yin weavers showed up bit they jist shook their heids an’ went awa’.

Then yin day an’ auld guy cam’ intae the palace tae see Josie. As he examined the cloot his auld sonsy face lit up wi’ pleasure. "This’s Jacobite tartan," he marvelled.

"Ah ken that!" scoffed Josie. "Can ye mak’ it?"

"Och aye," boasted the weaver. "Whaur did ye get this wee bit?"

"That’s pairt o’ a plaid ma Faither hid made fur me in the land o’ Canaan."

"So!" cooed the weaver. "That’s where ma young brither is."

"Ah dinnae ken if he’s still there noo. Ah wis jist bit a boy when ma brithers selt me as a slave an’ Ah’m thirty-years-auld noo."

"Selt ye as a slave?" echoed the auld man. "Ma young brither wisnae as bad as that, bit mind ye, when his dochter hid a wean, he never said onythin’ tae me aboot it. It jist goes tae show: Ye can pick yer freen’s bit ye cannae pick yer relatives."

"Aye weel that’s a’ very fine," agreed Josie. "Kin ye mak’ the kilt?"

"Och aye," beamed the weaver. "Ah’ll jist tak’ yer size an’ hae yin fur ye in twa or thee weeks."

* * *

So the years flew by an’ the corn wis jist pilin’ in. Josie wis gittin’ writers’ cramp signin’ a’ the oarders tae build barns, storehooses, bins, an’ silos - onythin’ that wid protect corn frae weather an’ vermin. He wore oot dizens o’ abacuses until he finally loast coont. Micht as weel coont the grains the sond in the sea, he thocht. Bit when famine hit Egypt he wis mair than ready. When the Egyptians cried oot tae Pharaoh for corn, he jist said: "Dinnae fash me, awa’ an’ see Josie." An’ soon they were a’ tuckin’ intae breid an’ buns.

Bit the famine jist didnae affect Egypt, it devastated a’ the lands fur hunners o’ miles aroon’. When Jacob noticed that Egypt hid cornered the corn market, he roonded up his sons an’ telt ten o’ them tae get doon there an’ get some afore they a’ sterved.

"Ok Faither," they chorused an’ started packin’. They telt Benjamin tae get packed tae.

"Na, na," said Jacob. "Wee Benny’s no gaun wey ye. Ah couldnae trust him wi’ youse lot."

So the sons o’ Israel ganged doon tae Egypt. When they knelt doon in front o’ the governor tae ask fur corn, they didnae ken that the man in dressed in rich claes wis their brither, Josie. Mind ye, yin o’ the brithers thocht that he recognised the tartan. Bit anither brither telt him tae wheesht an’ keep his heid doon in case the governor thocht that he wis lookin’ up his kilt.

Bit Josie kent them. Och aye, he kent them a’ richt, an’ he wis still teed aff at them. An’ he minded aboot the dreams that he hid aboot the stooks bowin’ doon afore him a lang, lang time syne. Noo the sondle wis oan the ither fit.

"So!" said Josie. "Whaur dae a’ ye gomerals cam’ frae?

"Oh Greatness," answered Reuben. "We come frae the Land o’ Cannan tae buy corn."

"Oh teuchters!" exclaimed Josie. "Ah think ye’re a’ a bunch o’ spies."

"Na, na, Excellency," they a’ protested. "We’re jist twelve sons o’ a guid faither."

"Na, na, yersel’s," scoffed Josie. "Ye’re a’ jist a bunch o’ spies. Onywey, Ah ken how tae coont an’ ten folk disnae mak’ a dizen."

"Oor faither an’ oor youngest brither, are still in the Land o’ Canaan. An’ the ither brither left us years syne," said Reuben.

"Ah dinnae believe ye," repeated Josie. "Tell ye whit, ye’ll hae tae prove ye’re no’ spies. Yin o’ youse gang back hame an’ bring back yer wee brither. In the meantime the rest o’ ye can stey in jile until the ithers show up. Noo awa’ wi’ ye."

So when wee Benny showed up, Josie telt his servants tae hide some money in the brithers’ secks as they were fillin’ them wi’ corn. He kent that when they goat hame they’d be worried stiff thinkin’ that they were in mair trouble. Josie kent the food widnae last lang. The famine wid last fur a while yet an’ force the brithers tae cam’ back tae Egypt fur mair corn. So every time they showed up Josie kept playin’ mair tricks oan them, like hidin’ his silver quaich in wee Benny’s sack an’ kiddin’ oan it wis stolen.

A while later Josie figured that the brithers hid learned their lesson an’ telt them wha he really wis. This cheered them an’ they ran hame tae tell auld Jacob that Josie wis still alive an’ wis noo a big wheel doon in Egypt. Eventually Josie goat his hale family tae stey in Goshen, a province o’ Egypt. An’ they a’ lived happily richt tae the end o’ Genesis.

When Exodus cam’ alang, anither Pharaoh goat the bricht idea tae build pyramids and wunnert whaur tae get the help fur this project . . . Bit that’s anither story.

See other poems and stories by Francis Kerr Young

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