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Recounting Blessings

Chapter 10


1944-1949
Banknock Village – ‘Scaady Legs a’ Ulkieday Claes’

 

While waxing lyrical in Chapter 9 about some of my outdoor recreational activities in the winter of 1947, my thoughts turned to what we children wore for such experiences, as well as for other more mundane doings, around that time. Inevitably this reminded me, not only of the informal language of the street that had described what we wore, but also the words that my parents had used at home. In the Banknock context, and in the many other far-flung places to which my widespread travels through life have taken me, I have absorbed a complex range of speech. However, the dominant influences in the 1940s were, the local people’s slang, my father’s Forfarshire turn of phrase in North-East of Scotland doric, my mother’s use of Falkirk dialectal variations, and, of course, the King’s English, and thus speaking ‘properly’ as befitted a highly educated household.

 

Sliding on ice in the school playground called for well tackit and seggit leather boots. The wellington boots favoured for sledging and messing about in puddles on rainy days were banned as sure-fire ways of dummying the glass-honed frosted tracks!

 

In other words, in the bewildering mixture of slang and dorics:-

 

Skitin oan ice int skil playgrun cau’d fur weil tackit an seggit leether bits. The welly bits likit fur sledgin an plitterin aboot int puddles oan weet days wur nae alood as siccar wyes o’ spilin gless-workit froasty paiths.

 

From an early age I was introduced to a shoemaker’s ‘last’ and instructed how, with segs and tacks, to protect boots and shoes from daily abuse  … such as, walking with one’s weight outwards [both dad and I were bow-legged [hid bow-hoched oar bandy legs!] which caused the heels of shoes to wear down badly on one side … and from sclaffing by careless bairns off dykes, pavements, and of course fur fitba and slides in both summer and winter time etc.

 

My Classmate Neil Howieson’s Boots and Stockings

 

If I start from the feet and work upwards, I should not only give some impression of what was common apparel then, but also the words that were associated with such clobber. Foot was fit and toe was tae, but I can’t think of anything else but feet for more than one fit! However the plural of toe was taes. My mother used to say, “I’ll flype your stockings John (turn them inside-out) to help you pull them on more easily.” When they needed darned she used a toadstool and matching wool to cross-stitch them. My father would call that toadstool a puddock-steel.

 

The top edges of my wellies and bottom edges of my short trousers (breeks) when wet in cold weather burned my bare legs and thighs red raw and my mother would say, “I’ll need to put vaseline on your scaady legs.” [This continued until I was fourteen when I eventually got my very first pair of long trousers!] She called my dad’s and my short draars, underpants, and our lang draars, ‘Long-Johns’. I also knew that she wore corsets which we boys and girls in local parlance called steys! Our trousers were held up by braces otherwise known as galluses and dad’s working overalls for the garden were dungarees in local slang, but my mum called them “dongarees”!

 

Posh men and women of course used suspenders to hold up their stockings beneath their trousers or skirts, while small boys like me (thank goodness) were given rubber bands or elastic bands or ribbon or string tie-ups in order to stop us constantly having to howk them up from aboot oor ainkles to just below the knee. This constant practice, as I learned later, was not too good for one’s circulation!

 

Our male upper bodies had a first covering of a vest which most folks called a semmit or simmit. My dad referred to his shirt as a sark only to be nagged by my mum that that was not a proper word for the nice formal shirts she so painstakingly washed and ironed for him to go with his collar, collar-stud, tie and cuff-links worn for church and special occasions etc.

 

Dad’s favourite word for a woolly cardigan was kirseckie, for which I have yet to find a source location; although I think the origin of ‘cardigan’ comes from caird for wool, and gansey for a sailor’s woollen jersey jumper (slang) … probably both arising from the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey also. I was so impressed by the word kirseckie, which my Aunt Neta also used frequently, that I recently composed a doric poem about it.[see below] Dad and Aunt Neta grew up in Longforgan, Carse of Gowrie and in Justinhaugh, Forfar, so it might be part of the doric for either of these two areas.

‘Kirseckie’

Ah’ve been howkin’ roon’ an roon’ int’ dict’n’ry
Fur a wurd thit’s kept circlin’ through ma pate.
Tho’ ah lik’ sich wurds as ‘stechie’,
Ah’ve been searchin’ fur ‘kirseckie’,
Bit yoan’s yin a niver-could-quite locate.
Maybe a’ its comforts sty’d syne jist aye talk’d o’.
Wisnae typit doon int ref’rence books, ah feel.
Nae baither tho’ fur aye it bides ma mem’ry,
As the keeriest word ah heard faither speil.

Kirseckie, Kirseckie, Kirseckie,
A warm woolly cardigan twis yoan.
T’wisnae a jersey tho’ hid sleeves oant side,
An’ buttons up-doon frint keepin’ cauld aye awye.
An’ ma Paw swore it aye wis essential,
Tae keep cosy his chest up tae neckie.
Wi’ in front’it, twa poakits, whilst o’er kidneys behind,
Wis Kirseckie, Kirseckie, Kirseckie.

Kirseckie, Kirseckie, Kirseckie,
A warm woolly cardigan twis yoan.
T’wisnae a jersey tho’ hid sleeves oant side,
An’ buttons up-doon frint keepin’ cauld aye awye.
Syne ma Maw said it aye wis much smerter,
Than dependin’ oan ‘sark’ fur wellbein’.
Meebe guid wearin ‘semmit’, it’s mich wiser ha’en,
A Kirseckie, Kirseckie, Kirseckie.

 

We had jaikets and blazers and Burberry raincoats and leather jerkins, all of them ready to put on over jumpers and kirseckies … and, available with all such coverings, we had the extra comfort of woolly scerfs and doddy-mittens (gloves without separate fingers except for the thumbs) strung from one hand through that arm of coats etc. and round the back of our necks to emerge for the other hand. This was in case we children might lose the precious gloves by leaving them lying around and forgetting where we had put them down.

 

All this was topped off with a woolly helmet or Balaclava  … an item our sticky-oot lugs really appreciated in thoan snell winter days in Banknock in the 1940s.


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