Track 2 (CD2) SILLY
JACK AND THE FACTOR Jeannie
The late Jeannie
Robertson needs no introduction as a singer, and some of her qualities
and feelings as a storyteller are mentioned in the section on traveller
storytellers above. In the story of "The Kineva Hills" (or
"Silly Jack and the Lord's Daughter") referred to there,
Jeannie's sympathy obviously goes out to the widow and her simple but
kind youngest son Jack, who unlike his brothers always cares about his
poor old mother. In this other Silly Jack Tale her sympathies are the
same, though Jack here is clearly severely retarded and his mother has
to use the amoral cunning typical of many heroes of international
folktale just to keep him from being carted off to an institution - but
then, who is ever on the side of factors and rent collectors? The
international Schwank AT 1600, "The Fool as Murderer"
is often combined with AT 1381B, "The Sausage Rain" in Gaelic
as it is here, and indeed other travellers have recorded versions of it
as "Silly Jack and the Factor", but we know of no telling to
match the feeling and characterisation of this one (the only tale
repeated from the School of Scottish Studies' limited-edition folktale
disc of 1962). Notice, for instance, Jack's broad Buchan dialect
(broader than Jeannie's own normal speech) and his loud open-air voice,
which help to evoke a vivid picture of the gangling, red-faced, sharny-booted
YE SEE, THERE WAS
an old wumman, and she had a little wee craftie placie, and she'd one
son, and they called him Jack - but he was really right off . . . but
she idolized him jist the same, it was the company that she had, an of
course he did aa the work aboot the place. But they were very very poor,
very very poor; it jist took them to keep theirsels.
But the one day she was
gaein awa fae hame, and she said, 'Now, Jack,' she says, 'A'm gaein awa
fae hame the day, but A'll maybe be back in time before the factor gings
awa - he'll be in by here, maybe, in the efternoon some time. And hae on
a big peat fire, so that the factor'll get a good heat while he's sittin
waitin upon me, because he'll maybe be here before I come back. And
ye'll mind and pit on a good fire.'
An he says, 'Aye, mither,
A'll pit on a good peat fire,' he says, 'and A'll hae the fire ready for
the factor comin in past.'
'Ah well,' she says, 'laddie,
that's whit to dae, an I winnae be awfu lang.' But awa his mither gings
And . . . of course,
she'd been awa an 'oor or twa, when in by comes the factor, lookin for
his six-monthly rent, ye see? And the factor says, 'Your mither in,
'Na, na,' he says, 'ma
mither's awa the day. But she tellt me to tell ye, sit doon and take a
rest, and ye'll get a heat, an she maybe winnae be awfu lang. She disnae
want ye tae gang awa,' he says, 'until she comes back, and ye'll get yir
'Oh well,' he says,
'Jack, A'll sit doon an A'll tak a rest.' So of course, the factor sut
doon upon the chair in front o this big peat fire it wis, as it was a
very cauld day, and he made he's sel as comfortable as he possibly
could. But wi the heat o this fire, the factor faas asleep.
So poor Jack, he was
sittin at the ither side o the fire, tryin to mak he's sel as
comfortable as he could, till his mither would come in. And of course
he's sitting watchin the factor, an the factor fell sound asleep, wi the
heat o the fire; an Jack's sittin lookin intil his face.
So suddenly there was a
great big flee lichtit on the factor's broo, you see, his baldy broo,
and Jack got fascinatit at this flee, traivellin back and forrit ootowre
the factor's baldy heid, ye see, an upon his broo. So he watched it for
a good while, but bein nae very richt, God help us, he couldnae help
hissel, and he says: 'Come aff the laird's bree, man!' But, of course,
the flee didnae come aff.
He waits for a wee whilie,
he sees this flee still gan roon aboot the tap o he's baldy heid an his
baldy broo so he says: 'Come aff the laird's bree, mun!'
But this flee's still
sittin on his broo, and he sits for a whilie langer, and he watches it,
an he's beginnin to get a wee bittie agitated noo at this flee, so he
'Come aff the laird's
bree, mun! - Oh God, ye bugger,' he says, 'ye winnae come aff, will ye?'
So up gets poor Jack, an he lifts the aix 'at he was the wey o hackin up
aa the sticks wi, and he hits the flee, fir tae knock it aff the laird's
bree, but of course, he hut the flee richt enough, but he killed the
factor! Ye see?
'Course, when his poor
mither came hame, she gets the factor lyin wi his heid hammert in two wi
the aix. Now she realised what her poor silly son had done, and she knew
that this wis one thing 'at he wouldnae get aff wi - that it'd be the
means o takin her son awa fae her, and pittin him intae some place.
Well, naturally, him bein aa that she had, she was gan tae put up a
fight fir to save her son.
So they had a big goat, a
big billy goat, and they cried hit 'The Factor'. That was its
So now,. . . he wisnae
very wise, but he wisnae sae silly as she made him oot to be. So she
thocht things ootowre, so as there was only one wey she could save her
son, mak him look worse than what he wis, an really mak things look as
if . . . he was aa muddlet richt.
So they took the factor,
and they buriet him, him and her. See? But she kent that he would tell
the police when they comed roon aboot questioning aboot the factor, ye
see, she kent 'at he would tell the police. So she killed the billy
goat, and she put hit . . . she took the factor oot of the grave that
him and her buriet him intil, and she put the billy goat into the same
grave - ye see? An she went awa farther, and she . . . made a new grave,
an buriet the factor hersel in the new grave - ye see? - withoot Jack's
So she went up the lum,
and she tellt him to look up the lum, but afore she went up the lum, she
made a pot o porritch an milk - ye see? So she tellt him 'look up the
lum', and when he lookit up the lum, she teem't doon the pot o cauld
porritch and milk. An as hit was comin doon the lum, the poor fool was
gobblin it up - ye see? So she tellt him it was rainin porritch and
milk; and he thought it, when it was comin doon the lum.
So, whitever, anyway or
another, a whilie passes, onywey, and the police was gan roon every one
o the hooses, makin enquiries . . . tae everybody, did they see the
factor, when they had seen him last, an what time, what 'oor.
So of course they come to
Jack an his mither. So they askit her, so she tellt them whit time she
saa him at. (And of course, remember, she hidit the bag wi the money!)
So whatever, anyway or
another, the police question't them upside doon and backside foremost
onywey or another, but poor silly Jack says: 'God, aye, man,' he says,
'I killed the factor!' (His mither kent 'at . . . he would say that, ye
see, 'at he would tell the truth).
'Oh, you killed the
factor,' the police says. 'An whar did ye pit him?'
'Oh God, min,' he says,
'me an ma mither buriet him up here. Come on,' he says, 'and A'll let ye
see,' he says, 'whaar I buriet the factor.' So of course the police went
up wi him, for tae see whar he had buriet the factor. An his mither come
up with him.
'Ma God,' she says,
'would you mind that poor silly laddie,' she says, 'he disnae ken what
he's speakin aboot.' She says, 'It's nae right,' she says, 'you
shouldnae be questionin him, an he'll say "aye" tae aathing,'
an she says, 'but of course,' she says, 'yeze can dig up,' she says,
'the grave. But,' she says, 'yez'll get a surprise.'
'Noo, haud your tongue,
noo, mither,' he says. 'I killed the factor,' he says, 'an me an you
buriet him in here.'
'Well, well,' she says,
'it's aa richt. What nicht,' she says, 'wis't - when did you kill the
'God, mither,' he says,
'A mind fine,' he says,'it was yon day,' he says, 'it was rainin
porritch an milk.'
'O God bliss me,' the
policeman says, 'this man,' he says, 'is far,' he says, 'fae bein richt,'
he says (when they heard him sayin it was rainin porritch and milk).
'But,' he says, 'nevertheless, we'll hae to dig up this grave,' he says.
'He insists,' he says, 'that he killed the factor, an we'll hae tae dig
up the grave.'
So they saw it was a new
. . . dug-up grave. So of course they aa started to dig, an they dug up
the grave. So they did take oot the thing that wis buriet in the grave.
So when they pullt it oot, this was the billy goat, an it had horns, ye
So as they were pullin it
oot, the poor fool lookit doon on tap o the thing that they were pullin
oot of the grave - he was expectin to see the deid man, but when he saw
the billy goat comin oot - he still thocht it wis the man, because he
said: 'Good God Almighty,' he said, 'mither, he's growt horns an
whiskers since we buriet him here last.'
So therefore the police
said, 'Oh God bliss me,' he says. He says, 'The poor laddie,' he says,
'ye hannae tae mind him.'
So therefore the case wis
droppit, an the factor wis never seen or heard tell o. An the whole
thing wis, that the authorities thought that the factor had skedaddlet
awa wi aa the money, and . . . wisnae tae be gotten. And therefore it
left poor Jack an his mither wi aa the money, an him free o the murder,
an aye left tae bide wi his poor aald mither.