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Oor Ain Folk
Chapter XII


Kirks—Ministers and Sermons—The Minister's Place in the Social and Intellectual Life of the People—Sermon Evolution—Tendency to become commonplace—A rather Exaggerated Parody —Impromptu on a 'Dreich' Preacher—Frank Self-criticism— The Brechin Beadle—The Collections and Plate at the Door— Candles—Peppermints—Anecdotes of Dr. Foote—An Outside View of the Subject—' Great Preevileges' o' the Auld Saints— literalism of the old Bible Critics—Rendering Scripture History realistically — Humorous Instances — Aubraham's Bosom — Pawky Estimate of King David's Character—'The Scarlet Woman.'

Innumerable are the stories told at the expense of ministers, and having reference to 'the services of the sanctuary' generally.

It is little to be wondered at that 'the minister' in the days of our grandfathers was in many respects a person of even greater consequence than 'the laird him-sel' When we remember how meagre were the opportunities for acquiring information, how few the facilities for procuring intellectual nutriment of any kind, can we wonder that the hebdomadal utterances from the pulpit furnished a theme for criticism and comment which nowadays would be supplied by the daily newspapers or the cheap magazine ? Beyond a few standard works such as The Scots Worthies, and a few volumes of sermons, with possibly Wilson's Tales of the Borders, or some such book, there were no libraries in the Mearns; scarcely even a volume of Burns was to be found. A Bible and a shorter Catechism were, to be sure, found even in the lowliest habitation; but the toil during the week-days was so incessant, and the conditions of life so irksome and depressing,—bodily fatigue and weariness was such a constant factor in the daily life of the peasantry,—that the Sabbath rest was in very sooth a heaven-sent boon; and the deliverances of the minister from the pulpit were the only medium, as a rule, through which the intellectual side both of farmer and farm-labourer was approached at all.

Little wonder, then, that the sermon formed a theme of never-failing discussion, and little wonder, too, that the minister himself felt impelled to 'give good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over' in his weekly dole of intellectual pabulum, when it had to fulfil such an important function. Quite apart, therefore, from the sacred demands of his calling as a preacher, and as one who had the handling of the sacred oracles, the Scottish minister of the olden time felt instinctively that he had really to fill the place in the social cosmogony which is filled by the journalist nowadays, who, when he starts a new paper, always sets out with the truthful proposition that he does it, purely,' to supply a much-felt want.'

A mere emotional address, therefore—a mere impassioned appeal, and a rhetorical display of verbal fireworks, such as too often constitutes the modern sermon of twenty minutes' duration,—would never have satisfied the intellectual, to say nothing of the spiritual, cravings of the old-fashioned Scottish congregation. The sermon had to be a highly-polished discourse, constructed on well-recognised, conventional lines, containing doctrine, exposition, logical inference, and practical application. So trained were the people in this critical habit of mind that it undoubtedly stimulated the minister to put his best powers into his work, although from our modern point of view much of the work produced looks dreary, turgid, involved, and unspeakably depressing. That there were giants of pulpit eloquence in those days goes, of course, without saying; but many of the ministers were indubitably 'unco dreich' as preachers; and when we consider that in addition to visitations, prayer-meetings, Bible-classes, presbytery deliberations, and other duties pertaining to the ministerial office, they were expected to turn out Sabbath after Sabbath two, and sometimes three, long sermons of the kind just described, it will easily be seen that the sermon must often have drifted into bald commonplace. A highly artificial and conventional style became the order of the day. Instead of being a preacher, the minister in fact too frequently became merely a professional sermoniser; and many comical anecdotes are related illustrative of this prevailing habit of mind and thought. It became the fashion to veil the paucity of their ideas by the liberality with which they interlarded the sermon with quotations from Scripture, and frequent repetitions of some text or favourite phrase, delivered with astonishing lung-power and much gesticulation. In fact, the arms were used sometimes in place of the brain, and the rustic congregations got so accustomed to this outward and visible manifestation of the theologian's equipment that they refused to think any good of a man who could not at least perspire freely in the pulpit, and 'ding the dust oot o' the cushion, or the guts oot o' the Bible,' as one homespun critic forcibly put it.

I have heard of a Highland parish minister who preached on one occasion a sermon something after this fashion, taking for his text the words, 'Waalk ye caircumspaictly.' He proceeded in this wise—

'Ma dear breethren, maybe some o' ye 'ill no ken what the apoastle means by caircumspaiction? "Waalk ye caircumspaictly." Weel, caircumspaiction, ma dear freends, is jist caashion!

'Caashion, caircumspaiction; caircumspaiction, caashion. "Waalk ye caircumspaictly."

'Noo, caashion or caircumspaiction is a great Christian vairtue, and I mean tae explain by means o' a seemilee or meetaphor or eelistraation, what caashion or caircumspaiction is. " Waalk ye caircumspaictly."

'Noo, ma freends, ye've a' seen a gairden,—oo ay, nae doot, a gairden ye've a' seen. "Waalk ye caircumspaictly." And in this gairden will be growin' berry busses, an' currant busses, an' aiple trees, an' pear trees, an' cherry trees, an' a' the fruits that are pleesant tae the eye an' guid for the taste o' man. "Waalk ye caircumspaictly." An' tae keep the fruit from bein' stolen by robbers an' thieves an' deepredawtors, it will be surroondit wi' a heich wa', an' for the mair effectual defence, the tap o' the wa' will be plaistered wi' bits o' broken gless stuck everywhere a' roond. "Waalk ye cair-cumspaictly. " I hae nae doot, ma Ghreestian breetherin, ye hae a' likewise seen a caat—a common, domestic caat, it may be a gray c&at, or a black caat, or a broon caat, or a brockit caat; but nae doot ye hae seen this caat come upon the tap o' the surroondin' wa', plaistered wi' the bits o' brocken gless. " Waalk ye caircumspaictly."' (And then as he approaches his climax, he increases in fervour. He shakes his head, gives a tremulous intenseness to his pronunciation, and pounds the cushion in front of him; while, suiting his action to his word, he imitates the delicate, gingerly gait of a cat walking on glass, as he thus proceeds :)—' And ah ! ma dear freens; ye hae seen it pit its yae fit doon this w'y, an' its tither fit doon this w'y; an' tha-a-a-t's ca-a-a-tion, ma dear breethren—tha-at's ca-a-ation.' (His voice rising to a shrill tremuloso.)—'Ca-a-ation! Gaircumspaiction ! Cair-cumspaiction! Ca-a-ation! "Wa-a-a-lk ye caircumspaictly. . . ."'

And so it would go on—a weary, dreary, droning-out of platitudes; and however extravagant the above travesty may seem, I solemnly declare I have heard nearly as bad myself from more than one preacher of the old school.

The following impromptu, written by a victim, not inaptly describes one such:—

"With reverent step we mount the stair,
Intent to hear a teacher;
But oh! the disappointment sair,
We found a weary preacher
He gabbled owre the sacred page,
He hirpled throwe the prayer;
A gowk confessed, though lookin' sage;
My very heart was sair.
Yearning for " bread," he gave "a stone " :
His ilka thocht was addled;
Let it be written with a groan,
He didna preach—he twaddledI'

Few ministers, however, would be so frank in their self-criticism as the kindly old pastor of a northern parish, who used to commit his confessions to a private * diary, and about whom the following is told.

On one occasion, it being the fast day with his people, he made arrangements for a friendly minister in a neighbouring parish to conduct the services. He himself was but a poor preacher. He could scarcely have delivered an extempore address for his very life, and even written composition was at all times an irksome task for him.

Rejoicing in the prospect of one day's unwonted freedom, and expecting to meet his friendly co-presbyter at church, he went to the sacred edifice, quite unprepared to speak, and you can easily imagine his concern when, the hour of worship having struck, his expected substitute had not arrived. As a matter of fact, the poor minister who had promised to officiate for him had been thrown from his horse at a boggy bit of the road some eight or ten miles away, and was little likely that day to mount the pulpit.

With growing anxiety, our poor minister, seeing the congregation assembled, was confronted with the awkward situation, quite unprovided with a sermon, and unprepared with ten consecutive ideas. Necessity impelled him to make some pretence of preaching, and he had to get into the pulpit.

His diary, which was found after his death, had an entry relating to this memorable occasion, which will best describe the poor minister's feelings. I would ask the reader to note the last six words of the entry, as being one of the finest illustrations of the pithy, condensed expressiveness of the Scottish language with which I am acquainted

The entry ran thus—

'June 16th.—Fast-day in oor pairish. Expeckit auld Andra Macilwr^aith tae preach for me. Didna come. Haed tae dae't masel'.'

(Now come the six words.)

'Haivert awa—sair forfouchen—wauchled throwe.'

An amusing instance of the exaggerated ideas of their own importance some of the residents in these small provincial towns occasionally had, is told of the beadle of the City Road Church in Brechin. The church used to be called the Back Side Church by adherents of rival sects. The beadle was engaged one day sweeping out the church and dusting the seats. It happened that a young probationer, rather a tyro in pulpit oratory, had been engaged to preach on the morrow, and he had stolen down quietly to have a look at the church and familiarise himself somewhat with the surroundings. The supercilious beadle watched him out of the corner of his eye for a few moments, taking a mental inventory of his appearance, etc. Then, with all the conscious pride of office, and a swelling sense of local importance, he addressed the timid, shrinking youth:

'Are ye the chield that's tae preach the morn?'

'Yes, I believe I am.'

'Aweel, see an' tak' care o' yersel' Ye ken this is Brechin.' The significant emphasis put on the word 'this,' was simply delicious.

It may give some idea of the niggardliness and cold, apathetic indifference of the old 'moderate' order of things before the Disruption, when I say that from reliable sources I have been informed that out of a congregation of some 1600 worshippers in Brechin, the average collection seldom exceeded 2 per Sabbath. Little wonder that scoffing critics have given as a reason for the existence of farthings, that they were simply invented for the use of Scottish Church offertories. I am inclined to believe, however, that such instances of meanness were the exception and not the rule. In fact, I am inclined boldly to place on record my belief that, notwithstanding many sneering slanders to the contrary, the Scottish people, to their credit be it said, have always been trained to give liberally to the support of their churches—that is, when one considers how naturally poor the country was, and how little realised wealth was divided amongst the bulk of those who formed the ordinary church-going masses. The big pewter plate always stood invitingly at the church door, and one of my earliest recollections associated with the 'ordinances of the sanctuary,' was the patter, patter, and tinkle, tinkle, of the offerings of the poor people, showered with a noisy clatter into the plate. By connoting the volume of sound thus produced, the elders and deacons in the vestry could always shrewdly gauge what sort of congregation was in the church. At that time we had no gas in the village, and had to depend for church illumination on homely tallow candles. These were stuck in tin sconces at intervals through the church, and diffused what was certainly only 'a dim religious light/ and not a very savoury smelling one either, for the place was seldom swept. Nearly every old woman seemed to think it part of a religious duty to bring some pungent-smelling herb or flower with her, and when these had faded in the hot air they were left on the benches or seats, or thrown on the floor, there to accumulate. At the end of months, what with dust, cobwebs, and withered flowers, and various other flotsam and jetsam, there was almost enough litter in the sacred building to provide bedding for a well-supplied stable. We boys used to look upon the candle-ends in the sconces as our particular perquisites. At all events we used surreptitiously to appropriate them, and they were used afterwards with great effect in the illumination of turnip lanterns, for which purpose they acquired a mercantile value, and were frequently the subjects of profitable barter for ' bools' and ' peeries,' and other objects dear to the schoolboy heart.

Another truly 'reeligious' commodity was peppermint lozenges of the very strongest kind. These were consumed in immense quantities, presumably to keep the good folks awake if the sermon happened to be 'by-ord'nar' dreich.' The old wives patiently sucked and masticated these pungent confections for hours at a time, much in the same way as a cow chews the cud. Not unfrequently even more substantial refreshments, in the shape of apples, oranges, and other fruits, were stealthily assimilated by the younger worshippers in much fear and trembling, the stolen bite being sometimes accompanied by a sounding box on the ear from some maternal hand, which, for a time, would wake the echoes of the cobwebbed ceiling. The windows were of the diamond-lozenge pattern, set in a leaden framework, and were inconceivably grimy; and thus whenever a thunderstorm hovered over the church the atmosphere inside became as dull and gloomy as oftentimes was the officiating preacher. I remember on one occasion hearing the Keverend Dr. A. L. K. Foote, a learned theologian and well-known author in his time, make rather an abrupt ending to the service, much to the amusement and relief of his younger hearers—at all events I can answer for one of them—although some of the Conservative old folks professed to be much scandalised. The worthy Doctor, who was a most eccentric character, although one of the kindliest of men, and deeply attached to my father, happened to be very short-sighted. He also shocked the susceptibilities of the unco-straitlaced by insisting on reading closely from the manuscript, that being considered a great drawback to his usefulness by some of the older people. However, on this occasion, during the sermon, a dense black thundercloud overspread the heavens, and produced an intense gloom in the church. Old Sandie Dorrit, the church officer, had gone down, decent man, to regale himself with kail and bannocks at his home in the village, as he had other duties devolving upon him that day, which would occupy his usual dinner hour. My father was preaching for Doctor Foote in Brechin. My mother, who ordinarily would have been equal to the occasion, was, I am afraid, on this particular date sound asleep, having been overcome, no doubt, by the hot weather, certainly not by the fervour of the preacher's delivery. I suppose most of the elders and deacons had succumbed to the same somniferous influence. At all events the poor doctor boggled and stumbled, wiped his glasses, looking round in vain to see if any one would come to the rescue. At last he lifted his manuscript boldly from the concealing recesses of the bulky pulpit Bible, and, to the horror of such old people as were awake, defiantly produced it in the sight of the whole congregation, and turning it from side to side in the effort to get more light upon its crabbed handwriting, he tried in vain to decipher his learned discourse. Alas! the cloud outside got thicker as his confusion increased. At length, seeing no help for it, the good old Doctor shut up the Bible with a bang which awakened all the sleepers, and said, in very broad homely Scotch, 'Weel, sirss, may God bless the preachm' o' His word, for I canna see tae read nae mair.'

The above anecdote of Dr. Foote recalls another of the same fine old Christian gentleman which well illustrates the shrewd, practical character of the man, combined with a whimsical eccentricity which often led to his being misjudged and rather unfairly criticised.

He had occasion to visit one of his parishioners, an old ailing woman, named Janet D------. He was due at a rather important meeting in another part of the town, and had scant time at his disposal. After saluting Janet in pleasant, homely fashion, he proceeded somewhat in this way—

'Noo, Janet, jist turn up the Fourteent o' John, an' read the first verse.'

Janet did so, and the worthy doctor expounded and explained the verse, saying some very beautiful and comforting things to the poor old body. Then, in his abrupt but kindly way, he said:

'Noo, read the second verse.'

She did so, and the exposition proceeded; and so, in like fashion, the old woman and the doctor got through some six or eight verses. Suddenly the doctor, remembering his other engagement, looked at his watch, and finding his time had flown faster than he had imagined possible, he rose to his feet, and with a kindly pat on the back of his aged and frail friend, said :

'Noo, Janet, I find I hae little time to bide, so ye'll jist pray for yersel' the day, for indeed ye ken better fat ye're needin' than I do!'

On another occasion, Miss Brown, sister of the author of that most pathetic little sketch, Rab and his Friends, and one of the gentlest and kindliest of women I have ever met, was sitting in the church with my sister Jeannie, and the preacher happened to be one of the 'dreich' and dreary sort. After a wearisome and tedious stretch of involved dogmatic disquisition, poor Miss Brown getting more and more weary at every sentence, he drawled out, 'Noo, ma breetherin, let's tak' anither view of the subject.' This was too much for Miss Brown. Whispering to my sister, she said, 'Come away, Jeannie dear, we'll tak' an outside view of the subject'; the sleepy hearers no doubt envying her independence, and wishing that they could adopt the same method of freeing themselves from the irksome thraldom of the pulpit

The Miss Brown above referred to lived with us in the manse for some time, and her gentle ways and sweet disposition endeared her to us boys, as she was always kindly alert to make our boyish life more pleasant and refined. To this day her sweet, patient face and gray silk dress stand out as one of the brightest pictures on my boyish memory's screen. Her brother, Dr. John Brown, who had a keen appreciation of quaint Scottish humour, used to tell a story at the expense of his sister, which I venture to give here. When Miss Brown had left my father's house, and taken up a course of housekeeping for her venerable old father, the Rev. Dr. Brown, at Arthur Lodge, Dalkeith Eoad, in Edinburgh, she devoted herself largely to works of charity and benevolence, which made her memory beloved under many a lowly roof where suffering and sickness had cast a shade. Her Christianity being of an intensely practical character, she dispensed many delicacies for the poor aged objects of her bounty; and of course, while supplying their bodily wants, she was not unmindful of the higher claims which belong to the spiritual nature, and while providing jellies and provisions, she always read a chapter of the Bible and administered a few words of kindly counsel to her old pensioners. But there was one rather callous old fellow upon whom she never seemed to be able to make any impression. He would always greedily accept the creature comforts provided for him, but whenever the Bible was produced he, like King Hezekiah of old, would ' turn his face to the wall'; and Miss Brown could never ascertain whether this was the result of a reverent regard for the book or a distaste for its contents. The old fellow, who must have been over seventy years, kept a most immobile countenance; not even by the flicker of an eyelid would he betray either interest or weariness, either distaste or satisfaction. One day the gentle lady had opened the sacred volume at random, and began reading the first chapter that presented itself, which happened to be a description of the great Jewish monarch's splendid court and Oriental luxuries. When she came to that part of the story which records the great number of Solomon's wives, etc., much to her astonishment, the old bedridden cripple manifested for the first time some appearance of awakening interest, and, slowly turning round to the surprised lady, with a flicker of humour in his faded eyes, he said, in a very shaky voice, 'Eh, Miss Broon, what great preevileges thae Auld Testament saints maun hae enjoyed!'

Now, this quaintly familiar way of speaking of Biblical characters and sacred subjects was strongly characteristic of the older generation of 'Oor ain folk.' There was not a suspicion of irreverence in the familiarity they allowed themselves in thus referring to scriptural persons or incidents, though possibly to more modern and modish notions it would appear rude and irreverent.

It was simply the outcome of the close, intense, and constant attention which was given to the study of Biblical history and biography as part of the parish and denominational school system, as well as the Sunday school system, of the bygone days. It appeared possibly as a part too of the theological training of which I have spoken, as embodied in those tedious pulpit utterances which took the place of the countless modern agencies which are now employed to train the intellect and fill the mental horizon of our latter-day young people. When libraries were few, when the newspaper press was almost an unknown power, and when the Bible really formed the great lesson-book for young and old, scriptural characters became invested with a. living reality. They were personified, so to speak, in the daily thoughts of the people, and heroes like the Judges and Kings of Israel took the place in the popular mind of those national characters, or the creations of literature, which have now become household words among. a people to whom modern historians have opened the great picture gallery of the past. Wizards such as Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, and the glorious company of our masters of modern fiction, have filled the chambers of imagination and memory of even the poorest amongst us with a long array of living creations, who, alas! may have jostled aside the old scriptural characters which were such real and living entities to our forefathers. Some of the Scottish stories bearing upon this point are among the highest in their unconscious humour that can well be imagined. It is in fact impossible to reproduce exactly some of the best of them. They would be looked upon as quite outrageous and altogether too irreverent and audacious for the sophisticated tastes of modern readers. Yet if one can only call up the peculiar state of society which gave them birth, it will be easily understood that they arose quite naturally, and were a direct outcome of that easy familiarity with scriptural subjects which was one of the most marked characteristics of the old rural state of things. Here for instance is one of them.

A farmer, who had been a loud professor of religion, but whose daily conduct gave the lie to his professions, had just died in the odour of sanctity. As he had been a leading elder in the kirk, it seemed incumbent on the parishioners to give him a burial befitting the high position to which he had attained. His private character had, however, become pretty well known. Various circumstances of little credit to his previous sanctimoniousness had leaked out, and at the funeral, to which, as in duty bound, nearly all the parishioners had come, further disclosures had passed from mouth to mouth of discreditable dealings and dishonest doings, and a feeling of disgust had taken the place of the sympathy with which many of the mourners had set out The only man who had a word of praise to say for the deceased was another elder of like kidney with the departed hypocrite, who quite overdid his part by loudly vaunting the virtues of the dear departed,— dear in more senses than one, for it soon became known amongst the assembled farmers that they would each and all be heavy losers when the dead man's estate came to be administered. One young farmer in particular, who found himself a likely victim to the tune of some hundred pounds, felt rather resentful, and when the fulsome, hypocritical Pharisee who was thrusting himself to the front began once more loudly and aggressively to vaunt the virtues of the deceased, the young farmer's soul waxed wroth within him.

'Ah!' said the smug-faced panegyrist; 'so poor Tammas has gaen tae his lang hame. Ah!' turning up his eyes and smacking his lips, 'Ah, but he wis a fine man wis Tammas.'

'Ou ay,' growled the young farmer; 'I dare say he wis, afF an' on, as guid's some o' his neebors' (putting a tremendous emphasis on the 'some'.

'Ah!' again exclaimed the wily humbug; ' but he wis, a graund, upricht, strauchtforrit, godly, pious man, wis Tammas. Eh, sirss, I've nae doot he's in Aubra-ham's bosom noo.'

This was too much for the bluff young farmer. He saw through the oily humbug at a glance, and said:

'Humph; I hae ma doots. I'm thinkin' Aubra-ham's no sic a fule as tae let him creep sae far ben.'

Or take yet another. The minister had been attending at what he supposed was the deathbed of one of his parishioners. The presumably dying man had been famed for his keen sense of fun, and for a bright, pawky turn of expression, which had made him somewhat celebrated as a humorist. The minister, in his anxiety 'to improve the occasion' and take advantage of the solemn opportunity, had opened the Book just at random, and began to read in tremulous accents the touching story of the chaste patriarch Joseph and his adventure with Potiphar's wife. To his consternation, and not a little to his indignation, happening to look up he saw the bed shaking under the suppressed laughter caused by a paroxysm of humour which was convulsing the frame of his sick friend. In tones of indignant remonstrance he demanded to know what was the cause of this outburst of unseemly levity. 'What wicked thought/ %he demanded, 'has Satan put into your head, that you should indulge in this ungodly mirth at such a time as this, when you should rather be preparing for your exit from this vale of tears, and your entrance into a higher and a nobler life? I demand to know, sir, what is the cause of this wanton laughter, of this lamentable exhibition at such a solemn time.'

The poor patient, whose hearty, though silent laughter had been working upon him as a good tonic, at length gasped out between paroxysms of attemptedly suppressed mirth, ' Losh, meenister, I carina help it—I canna help it.'

'But,' said the minister, 'I demand to know, sir, what ye mean? What in the world is causin' ye tae laugh at this noble record, and at such a time too?'

'Ha ha, ho ho!' faintly came from the bed. 'I canna help it, sir — I canna help it; the thocht jist struck me that if it hed bin auld Davit the Psalmist, feth he wadna hae been sae blate.'

Take still another, which very clearly illustrates the characteristic of which I have been speaking. Our next character is a blind, toothless, old body, whose advancing infirmities precluded her from attending church, but who still retained all her wonted critical faculty, and a great desire to hear what the minister had been 'preachm' aboot,' but who of course had now to depend on information got secondhand.

She was only an ignorant old body, not very refined, intensely matter of fact, and she evidently took the Bible story in a practical, literal way that we do not meet with among critics nowadays. The personages in the sacred record were very real characters to her, and she must have possessed at least one fundamental qualification of the poet, viz. the gift of personification. She was sitting at the door of her humble shieling. It was a beautiful summer's day. Great billows of crimson heather rolled from hill-crest to hill-crest in successive undulations of odorous bloom, and the subdued hum of satiated bees filled the air with an all pervading, languorous, drowsy monotone. Deep down in the dells, hidden amid waving bracken and sweet-scented birch trees, the mountain rills glanced and gushed, with here a silvery tinkle, and there the melodious gurgle, which caused the scent-laden air to vibrate with throbbing waves of sweetest sound. Afar in the distance the mellowed, deadened boom of the waterfall, dashing its tawny waters over the black rocks that sought to impede the tumultuous rush of the brawling stream, came fitfully at intervals on the soft breeze. Earth and air alike were redolent of beauty. Nature had put on her fairest robes; and the good old lady, leaning, like Jacob, 'on the top of her staff/ simply basked in the mellow sunbeams, drinking in delight at every pore of her being. Presently, upon her somewhat dulled senses broke the sounds of rippling, childish laughter, and anon her little granddaughter came tripping up the braeside, recalling 'Granny' to the consciousness of the fact that it was Sunday, and the ' kirk was oot.' Peering eagerly forward with her dimmed, bleared eyes, and putting one hand at the back of her ear, she mumbled, 'Is that you, Leeby?'

'Ay, Granny', came back the quick, clear, childish response.

'Ye'll hae ben tae the kirk, dawtie?'

'Ay, Granny.'

'An' fat wis the meenister preachin' aboot th' day, hinny?'

'Oh, Granny! it wis sic a queer sermon.'

'Yea na; and fat wis the tex', deary?'

'Oh deed, it wis an unco queer tex': I cudna unnerstan' heid nor tail o't.

'Imph'm,' said the old body, now growing quite eager and excited; 'an' fat wis't aboot than?'

'Oh, it wis a' aboot the Scarlet Wumman—the great whore o' Babylon.'

The old lady at once pricked up her ears, and smiting her staff with some vehemence on the ground, she exclaimed, in tones betokening a sort of reminiscent, confused surprise:

'Od save's a', sirss! Can that wumman be on the ran-dan yet? Heth, I mind she wis a rael bad yin when I wis a wee lassie.'

Now, it must not be supposed that I vouch for the absolute truth of this story; but I give it as a very apposite illustration of quite a vanishing phase of the old Scottish rural character. It is also doubtless an illustration of the numberless Scotch stories which perhaps are sometimes just a trifle too prononce for the conditions of modern literature. The quaint, racy outspokenness of the Biblical criticism is, however, I imagine, sufficient to win my pardon from the lenient reader, especially if he be 'ane o' oor ain folk.'


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