A few weeks
ago I had a discussion with
an old friend from home. We were
blethering about old tymes and what we
got up to when we were lads. At school in
the 50’s, when pupils were in their last
year, they had the offer to forget schooling
for a fortnight and go pick the potato
harvest in the area. Now it was an
opportunity to make a wee bit of well
needed cash. All the mothers of the lads
that I knew were always needing a few
Girls as well as boys were allowed to
lend a hand in the reaping of the local
Unfortunately for me, it meant two weeks
away from Maths, Science and the
infinitely uninteresting technical subjects,
of which I constantly failed to gain, even
the most slight pass mark..
Having come from a family of hard
working class folk, I saw no reason why I
should not take advantage of the two
weeks of servile backbreaking labour.
“Good for the soul”..some academic
ponce ventured...He abstained from the
offer..on account that ‘manual’ was not in
his nature...and ‘labour’ was adverse to
his fathers’ political leanings....
So it was, that young Graham found more
than ‘tatties’, in the warm verdant fields of
that most lovely county of Perthshire.
I am an Angus born man, but Perthshire
holds an special love for me...
My tale is of my youth.. I hope not to offend
anyone.. It might seem a bit coarse to
some...but it was a ‘fell coorse’ tyme back
It is dedicated to all my classmates of St
Michael’s RC Secondary.. in Graham
The Tounie and the Tinker.
I weel remember that simmer tyme
O’ that hot an’ sticky year,
When I wis jist a gawky ganglin’ lad
Wi’ naething much tae fear.
I was aff tae the tattie howkin’
In mi’ last year at the school,
In a auld war bus
There wis thirty o’ us
Nae teachers here tae rule....
We wir up afore the dawn did brak
We met on the Clepington Road,
And the coont wis taken by the adult chiel
An’ auld lad by the name o’ Doad.
Wi’ were aff tae the tattie howkin’
We were singing dirty sangs,
If Father Kreegan
Could hear us noo
‘Twad be Confession for a’ oor wrangs....
We were bound for the fields o’
Whar the tatties grew in heaps,
Whar green cubbages an’ carrotts grew
An’ great big bluddy neeps.
We had great fun on the journey
Wi’ the lassies in the back,
If ye could’na
Get their bras aff
Well.. ye did’na hae the knack....
We were a’ jist young and yelpin’ then
We were a’ jist mad an’ daft,
An’ us lads were hard in places whar
The lassies a’ were saft.
An’ we a’ fell intae that fairmers field
The tatties for tae howk,
It wis oor first taste
O’ fairmin’ wark
An’ o’ the fairmin’ fowk....
The first day in that hairvest dreel
Wi’ back forever bent,
I had my introduction tae
What howkers aye had kent.
That at the tattie howkin’ tyme
Nae shirkin’ wad there be,
Nae tyme tae ponder on
O’ Jessie MacAfie....
At denner brak in the tattie field
On erse’s we sat doon,
An’ thocht upon the killing o’
That bastard countrie loon,
Wha laughed at us saft tounie lads
And winked at tounie lasses,
They kicked the shite
Richt oot o’him
Amangst the countrie grasses....
But we were laughing tounie lads
Chasing saucy tounie maids,
We sported in the countrie field
In saucy knickered raids.
And howling for the lad wha’s caught
amang the cubbage field,
The lassies they hae
And the togs fae him they peeled....
An’ greetin’ rinnin’ he did gang
We niver saw the like,
O’ him again... I’ve scarcely seen..
I ken his name was Mike.
But we howked on and did oor share
Like onie countrie loon,
The tatties picked
The bogies filled
An’ then we a’ sat doon.
Tae eat oor jammie pieces
That wir made up by oor Ma’s,
Some had corned beef on them
That exercised yir ja’s.
There wis often then a fecht brak oot
When someone’s juice wis skelt,
It was braw tae watch
As each ither they wad belt...
Did we tak bad wi’ the hard graft then.?
Did we think it wis awfie braw.?
Did we like when the auld Grieve kicked
Did we wish we were hame wi Ma.?
At the end o’ the day we a’ took hame
Some tatties in a sack,
Cam doon the street
Wi’ a swaggering gait
Wi yer load upon yer back....
And the wages then were seven an’ six
Was the pay that I took hame,
An’ my Ma gave me a special kiss
An’ she called me my ‘Mister’ Name.
I can still see the face o’ my angel Ma
As she put intae my fist,
Twa shillin’s bricht
An’ a tanner wee
For her son that she hae kiss’d....
For that first few days I warked sae hard
For the money I did yearn,
At mid-day brak frae the loudmouth lads
Some peace I sought tae earn.
So I took a road which wis new tae me
An that’s when I first laid eyes,
On that red haired tink
Wi’ her green eyed wink
An’ her naked Irish thighs....
I hae strayed intae a field o’ corn
For a wee quick secret pee,
When well intae my innocent function
This faerie cam’ tae me.
Sae fearfull did I think she ‘d seen
My dribblin’ droopin’ winkie,
I blushed for her
She wis....o’ goad...
A bonny freckled tinkie....
Noo..I looked at her..she looked at me
Oor eyes forever locked,
An’ laughin’ redly were her lips
At seein’ me half-cocked.
In that fatal inst’..I deeply fell
Intae her deep green sea,
O’ Irish eyes
An’ red-wild hair
Hersel’ she gied tae me....
An’ me tae her I grat my luve
Intae her liquid self,
She wrapped me in her tinker thighs
An’...in the softness o’ that elf,
I poured an’ loo’ed my lyfe awa
Tae follow her I’d gae,
An’ leave a’ ithers
That I ken
An’ only her I’de hae....
For seven days I sneaked awa
When brak tyme cam at noon,
And met her in that corn field
And there we baith lay doon.
She spak tae me a language that
Wis new and strange tae me,
O’ lovely wild her
For only me tae see....
Now tinker fowk were no’ like us
Wha lived in smoky touns,
We didna ken the cant they spak
The Shelta nor the runes.
But Jeannie was for loving..
and I had a lot tae gie
An’ baith we rode
amangst the corn
O’ that swaying yellow sea....
She wis like nae ither lassie
That I hae ivver kissed,
She wis like nae ither laughing lass
That ivver I hae missed.
She wis naked red haired faeire
An’ she stole awa my hairt,
But auld faither tyme
An’ I kent we soon must pairt....
As surely as the day must end
An’ the sun must gang awa,
The tattie crop wis weel nigh picked
There wis nae wark left ava.
Sae the auld Grieve ca’d a halt that day
An’ paid oor howkers fee,
We’d mak oor airt
Tae the auld war bus
For the road back tae Dundee....
Noo mi’ hairt wis sair on the journey
As I thocht o’ the lass I left,
Wad she look fir me in the corn field
And fae happiness be bereft.
Wad she ken that I wis gan awa
Back tae my dark dour toun,
Wad she weep wild tears
For the lad wha’s gone
Wad she scream tae the sky abune....
Now the years went past as they aye dae
And I grew tae manhood tall,
And I sported in the short grass field
In the scrum of the rugger ball.
But my mind wad often wander back
Tae a sport in a bygone field,
Tae a scrum wi’ a
Green eyed tinker lass
And her hot and breathless yield....
And I’ve oft tymes thocht upon that lass
And wondered whar she be.
For she was a bairn o’ the travelling fowk
She wis forever free,
Tae wander ‘mongst the lonely roads
Amang the highland glens,
Wi’ her red tink hair
In the wynds doon aff the bens....
Sae I sit here a’ alane this nicht
I be sae much aulder noo,
For the sicht o’ the Perthshire harvest
And the chiels hard at the ploo’,
I want tae gae awa back again
The tatties for tae howk,
And tae blether wi’
The auld fairm Grieve
And tae be amang the fairming fowk....
Graham.. July 2002