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Scottish Traditional Tales
Silly Jack and the Factor

Track 2 (CD2) SILLY JACK AND THE FACTOR Jeannie Robertson, Aberdeen

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 halfwit. -AJB

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 onywey.

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, Jack?'

'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 money.'

'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 says:

'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 name.

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 help.

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 factor?'

'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 see?

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.



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