THERE scarcely exists a locality in Scotland
without its "Heather Jock." The individual bearing this significant
sobriquet whom I remember was a tough-looking tyke, who eked out a
livelihood making Heather besoms and "reenges," acting as a whilom
chiropodist, spearing eels in their season, and spending the few bawbees
he earned on Scotch whiskey.
But Heather Jock finds a place in the literature
and the songs of Scotland. R. B. Cunningham Grahame, in the "Saturday
Review," thus pictures him as he was known to that writer in the person
of William Brodie, bred a weaver at the Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire,
who turned peddler, and afterward transmigrated himself into a wandering
singer and buffoon under the name of Heather Jock. "No one asked his
reasons, but accepted him as he was, with headdress like an Inca of
Peru, stuck all around with pheasants' and peacocks' feathers, bits of
looking-glass, adorned with Heather, and fastened underneath his jaws
with a black ribbon; with moleskin waistcoat, bee in his bonnet, humor
in his brain; with short plaid trousers, duffel coat, and in his hand a
rude Caduceus made of a hazel stick, in the centre a flat tin heart, set
round with jingling bells, and terminating a tuft of Heather. In figure
not unlike a stunted oak of the kind depicted in the arms of Glasgow, or
such as those which grow in Cadzow Forest, and under which the white
wild cattle feed, as they have done since Malcolm Fleming slew one with
his spear and saved the King.
"The minstrel's features of the western Scottish
type, hard as flint, yet kindly; eyes like dullish marbles made of glass
such as the children in Bridge of Weir called bools; his hair like wire;
his mouth worn open, and his nose a trap for snuff; hands out of all
proportion large, and feet like planks; his knees inclining to what the
Scotch call 'sbauchlin,' and imparting to his walk that skipping action
which age sometimes bestows on those who in their youth have passed a
sedentary life, the true faux bassu, although without the hump, having
acquired the carriage of hunchback by diligence or sloth. In fact, he
seemed a sort of cross between the low class Indian, such as one sees
about a town in South Dakota, and an ourang outang, which had somehow
got itself baptized. From Kilmalcolm to Mauchline, from DaIry to Ayr, at
a Kilwinning papings; at races, meets, fairs, trysts; at country house
or moorland farm, to each and all he wandered and was welcome. His
repertory was composed of one song—Annie Laurie—sung with humorous
effects at breakneck speed, jingling his bells and jumping about from
side to side, just like a Texan cowboy in Sherman, Dallas, or some Pan
Handle town, during the process of a barroom fight to dodge the bullets.
At the end he signified his wish to lay him down to die for the object
of his song, and did so, elevating, after the fashion of expiring folk,
his feet into the air and wiggling to and fro his boots, adorned with
what the Scotch call 'tackets.' He died at the age of eighty-two."
Of a different character was the Heather Jock
depicted in the following old Scottish ballad, the authorship of which
has been lost:
Heather Jock was stark and grim,
Fought wi' a'
would fecht wi' him;
Swank and supple, sharp and thin,
gaun against the win'.
Tawnie face and touzie hair,
In his cleadin' unco bare;
Curs'd and swore whene'er he spoke,
equal Heather Jock.
Jock kent ilka bore and bole,
Could creep through a wee bit hole;
pilfer eggs and cheese,
Dunts o' bacon, skeps o' bees;
Sip the kirn and steal the butter,
hens without a flutter;
Na! the watchfu' wily cock
for Heather Jock.
Eppie Blaikie lost her goun,
She coft sae dear at borough town;
Sandy Samson's Sunday wig
Left the house to
rin the rig.
Jenny Baxter's blankets a',
Took a thought to gang
And a' the weans'
bit printed f rocks-
was thief but Heather Jock?
Jock was nae religious youth,
For at the priest he thraw'd his mouth;
wadna say a grace nor pray,
But play'd his pipes on Sabbath day.
the kirk o' bean and book,
Everything would lift he took;
He didna leave the weather-cock,
Sic a thief
was Heather Jock.
Nane wi' Jock could draw a tricker,
muirfowl he was sicker;
He watch'd the wild ducks at the springs,
And hang'd the hares in
Blaz'd the bums and spear'd the fish,
mony a dainty dish;
best o' moorfowl and blackcock,
Aye grac'd the board of Heather
Nane wi' Jock had ony say,
At the neive or cudgel play;
Jock for bolt nor bar ne'er staid,
the jail his courage laid;
Then the judge, without delay,
him aff to Botany Bay,
And bade him mind the laws he broke,
And never mair play Heather
Heather Jock's noo awa',
Heather Jock's noo awa',
The muircock noo may crousely craw,
Heather Jock's noo awa'.