In memory of Lydia, my beloved daughter
One morning Grandfather went out into his back garden to see if any of
his Ailsa Craig tomatoes were ready. There, he found his two wee
granddaughters playing with Justin and Jeffrey, the two boys from next door.
"Hi Papa!" chorused Ashley-Anne and April.
"How's my wee pets the day?" asked the old man.
"Fine Papa," replied nine-year-old Ashley-Anne, the elder sister. "Are
you going to fill up the paddling pool?"
"I'm going inside for my swimming suit!" squealed April, running off
before Papa could answer.
"We'd better go and get ours too," Justin said to his brother.
As they turned to go out the garden gate, Grandfather noticed something protruding from Justin's back pocket. "Here," he said, his Scottish
burr as thick as the porridge that he had for breakfast. "Is that a slung ye've
goat in yer pocket?"
Justin came to a sudden halt and with a puzzled expression on his face,
he withdrew the object from his pocket. "This is just my catapult," he replied.
"Aye," confirmed Papa, "That's whit Ah said - a slung!" He continued
with an admonishment: "Ah hope that ye're no' gaun tae try an' kill wee birds
wi' that thing."
"No - no!" Justine vehemently denied. "We just shoot at tin cans,
"Och, that's ok then," replied Grandfather, suitably pacified. "Mind
ye when Ah wis a laddie, Ah pit doon a hoodie craw or twa in my time, bit
no' ane o' the guid Lord's singin' craturs. Ye hiv tae be carefu' though -
ye could kill a man wi' yin o' yon things.
He rubbed his chin and reflected for a moment. "Why, Ah mind . . .
Sensing that a good story could be in the offing Ashley-Anne badgered
her Papa about the catapult. April came rushing back presently, wearing a flamboyant bikini with an even more flamboyant towel draped around her
"Weel, Ah suppose Ah've goat time," conceded Grandfather. "Jist wait a meenite until Ah turn oan the gairden hose tae fill up yer pool. Ah'll
need tae hing aboot an' shut it aff efter the pool has been filled."
He toddled over to a garden chair and slowly eased his ancient frame
onto it. The boys and girls formed a partial circle in front of him and sat
down on the lush grass. "Aye, weel this story began a gey lang time ago in
the Bible," and Grandfather began his version of a tale from the Book of
It wis a time when the Israelites were hivin' anither rammie wi' the Philistines. Ye see, there wis this place ca'd Glen Elah that hid a wee
bit o' a burn runnin' through it. Baith armies were camped oppasite ane
anither oan the slopes o' the glen. Every day they wid hae a wee bit o' a fecht, bit it never cam' tae onythin.
Yin day the gaffer o' the Philistines hailed a challenge acroass the
burn at Saul, the king o' the Israelites. "Hey Saul," he shouted, "Since
we're no' gettin' onywhere wi' this war, howsaboot baith o' us pittin' up a champion each tae get a result: Winner tak a'."
Saul rubbed his beard an' thocht aboot it afore answerin'. "Ah'll tell
ye whit," he yells back, "Ah'll ask my lads if ony them wid like tae hae a crack at yer guy. Whaur is he, by the wey?"
The Philistine gaffer pinted tae a squaad o' sodjers staun'in' richt
ahent him. "See the big guy in the back raw?"
Saul gawked an' spluttered, "Dae ye mean yon fella that's heid an' shoo'ders aboon a' the rest?"
"Aye, that's him. That's my lad frae Gath."
"Weel, like Ah said," replied Saul. "Ah'll pit it tae my lads, bit Ah cannae promise onythin."
Ashley-Anne interrupted the monologue at this point and asked where
Gath was. Grandfather hadn't a clue so he just said that he thought that it
was in Germany, probably confusing Gath with Goth. He continued his story:
Saul telt a' his captains tae fun' volunteers tae fecht the Philistine,
bit there were nae takers. Finally Saul's Sennachie hid a word in his ear. "Sire," he said. "Ah micht jist hae the very lad fur ye."
"Oh aye, wha micht that be?" asked Saul.
The Sennachie pinted tae a great big sodjer playin' peever wi' some o'
the squaadies' wee dochters.
"Och no," objected Saul. "Yon's Big Georgie Fife. A'body kens he jist
a big saftie."
"Aye," admitted the Sennachie. "Bit when he gets his dander up,
there's nae stoappin' him. Mind ye, he's quite useless at the Heilan' gemes.
He's thrown away an' loast mair hammers an' cabers than we can keep up wi'."
"Izthatafact?" remarked Saul, his interest renewed. "So how dae we get
his dander up?"
"When he gets a bevy inside him, he gangs daft. He'll red oot a
borroom in nae time."
"Ok," agreed Saul. "Let's gie him some o' yon stuff in the wee boattle that the Phoenicians brocht frae beyond the Pillars o' Hercules. Whit's
it ca'd again?"
"Laphroaig," answered the Sennachie, lickin' his lips wi' anticipation.
"What's Laphroaig?" asked Jeffrey.
"It's one of Papa's medicines," replied April, knowingly.
"Oh yes," agreed Ashley-Anne, adding; "He has a big medicine cabinet
next to the TV."
"All his medicines come from Scotland," April informed the two boys.
Then warmed up, she began to recite from memory: "The Balvenie, The Macallen, Talisker . . ."
"Ahem, that's quite enough thank ye, April," grunted Grandfather,
bringing her repertoire to halt.
"Cardhu, Glen Morangie," continued Ashley-Anne.
"And there is even one called Sheep Dip!" supplemented April.
"Dae waant tae hear this story or no'?" Grandfather asked, his voice
taking on a slight edge. 'Cannae keep ony secrets wi' they twa aroon' the
hoose,' he muttered to himself. Then aloud, he went on with his tale:
"Aye weel, ye can forget aboot sluchin' intae ma singul malt," Saul
telt his Sennachie. "Ye're next task is tae get Geordie whitshisface a guid
bevy in him. Jist get him steamin' mind, no' too fu', he's nae guid tae us fa'in' doon drunk."
"Aye Yer Grace," said the Sennachie, crestfallen
So afore lang, Big Geordie wis ready tae tak' oan the hale Philistine
army. "Whaur is this champion that Ah'm supposed tae fecht?" bellowed Geordie. Saul scanned the enemy array, an' pinted: "That's him ower there," he
telt Geordie. "The big yin in the second raw o' yon squaad in the middle o'
"He's a big guy, a' richt," conceded Geordie. "His heid an' shoo'ders too'er aboon his pals. Bit that's a' richt, Ah'll sin hack him doon tae
He gied his swoard a practice swing.
"Hey, hey!" protested his king. "Tak' it easy wi' that thing. Ye
nearly wheecht ma airm aff!"
Saul screamed acroass the glen tae the Philistine gaffer as Geordie
began swaggerin' doon the brae. Weel, it wisnae quite a swagger, it wis mair
like a whisky barrel bobbin' alang oan coiled springs.
"Whit's up?" roared back the Philistines' gaffer.
"Oor man's comin' doon tae hae a better look at yer man," answered
"Oh, is he?" came the reply. The Philistine gaffer turnt aroon' an' bellowed up the brae: "Haw Goliath, staun' up!"
As Goliath cam' tae his full hecht, the rest o' his squaad jostled
aboot, them a' tryin' tae get the benefit of the sudden shade frae the bilin'
hoat sun. Geordie went gey, gey grey an' sterted tae rin back up the brae towards Saul.
"Here, whaur are ye gaun'?"
Geordie, quite sober noo, replied: "Ahm gaun hame. Ye're no' peyin' me enough fur this joab!" an' he ran aff oot o' sicht.
The Sennachie strode ower tae Saul, an' shook his heid.
"Aye, things are lookin' grim noo," moaned Saul.
"Aye, they urnae hauf," agreed the Sennachie. "A' yon guid Laphroaig wasted!"
Frae ahent ane o' the sodjers' big tents they heard the shrill voice of
a young vice beratin' someboady. The twa men stepped ower some guy ropes
an' hid a wee keek aroon' a flap o' canvas tae see whit wis gaun oan.
"A wee laddie wi' herr as rid as yours, April, wis giein' three big
sodjers laldie. Like a loat o' rid-heided folk, he hid a temper tae match,
yince he goat his dander up. This laddie wis aboot hauf-a-heid taller than yersel', Justin, an' he wis madder than a bear wi' a burnt hin'en'."
"Here, here," admonished Saul, movin' intae sicht. "Whit's gaun oan?"
"Och mister, Ah'm jist giein' ma big brithers a tellin' aff," answered
the wee boy.
"Is it the custom in yer faimly tae gie yer elders, an' yer betters, Ah might add, a severe tongue lashin'?" asked Saul. "An' by the wey, ye'll address me as Sire, or yer Grace."
"Ur ye wan o' the High Heid Yins?" the wee laddie asked.
"Aye," replied Saul. "Ah um the High Heid Yin. Ah'm King Saul. Noo,
ye kin tell me wha the blazes you are!"
"Ma name's Davie," responded the wee boy. "My faither sent me up tae
the front jist tae feed yon three lazy scunners there."
"Enough o' that!" ordered Saul. "Ye'll no' speak aboot my sodjers like that. Tell me, how come ye're mad at them?"
"Ah've been hurlin' this heavy barra up steep braes an' doon rugged
crags a' day in this heat. It's loaded doon wi' stuff that Mither made for
they brithers o' mine, Eliah, Abinadab, an' Shammah." Wee Davie explained.
"Ah've goat tattie scones, shoartbreid, oatcakes, bannocks, an' the
like. Ah've brocht some o' Faither's cheeses fur their serjents. An' here Ah
fun' them lollin' aboot as if they were oan Saltcoats Beach durin' a Sunday
"Dae ye hae ony rolls oan corned beef an' beetroot wi' ye, Davie?"
asked Eliah, lickin' the growth o' herr aroon' his mooth.
"Naw Ah dinnae!" snapped Davie. "Ah've jist goat some dry breid fur ye
an' stroang cheese fur yer captains . . . Wha dae ye think ye ur, onywey? Rebus?"
Eliah shook his heid glumly an' slumped doon oan a hummock o' dry grass.
"Aye," went oan Davie, "That's ye at yer best - layin' aboot like a
store dug. Ye should fechtin' a' that rabble ower there!" he exclaimed, his fing'r jabbin' at the oppasite hillside.
His three brithers said nothin' an' stared shamefaced at the grun'.
"Here laddie, Ah'll need tae hae a word wi' yer faither aboot yer lack
o' manners," censured Saul. "Whit's his name, by the wey?"
"Jesse," replied wee Davie.
"Jesse whit?" prompted the Sennachie.
"Jesse - Yer Grace," came the sullen reply.
"That's better," said Saul. "Is he no' yon big tall fella frae
"Naw Sire," said wee Davie, shakin' his heid. "Ma Da's a big man a'
richt, bit he steys in Bethlehem."
"Och, that big Jesse!" Saul beamed wi' recollection. "Aye, Ah ken him fine. Weel noo young man, ye're an awfy bad mannered wee boy an' Ah'll
be tellin' yer faither next time Ah see him."
"Ah'm sorry, Yer Grace," apologized Davie. "Bit ye ken, this war
should've been ower an' din wey a while ago."
"Whit dae ye ken aboot wagin' war?" bellowed the Sennachie. "Ye're
jist a bairn."
"Jist a bairn!" echoed Davie. "Ah'll let ye ken that Ah've kilt twa
bears in ma time an' coontless jackels that were efter ma faither's sheep."
He glared back at the Sennachie afore continuin': "Dae ye see this" he demanded, grabbin' at his sporran (he cairred it oan the richt side o'
belt jist the same as a pipeband snare drummer does), this is made frae the
skin o' a lion that Ah slew jist afore Ne'erday. Ah'm man enough fur ony battle."
"So how come ye're sae tough?" asked Saul.
"Because Ah've goat the poo'er o' The Lord in ma erm," boasted wee
"Wha telt ye that?" asked Saul.
"Sammy," replied wee Davie.
"Sammy Dreep?" guffawed the Sennachie.
"Naw," sneered Davie. "Sammy, the prophet, when he aninted me."
'So-o,' thocht Saul. 'This wee scunner must be gettin' lined up tae
tak' ower ma joab. Weel, we'll soon see aboot this.' "A wee hard man, ur
ye?' Saul scoffed aloud. "Dae ye see yon lump o' a Philistine ower there?" Wee Davie nodded.
"Dae think that ye could beat him?"
"Mibi," said Davie, hesitantly. "Ah'll hae a go at him if ye waant."
"Here-here, Yer Grace, " protested the Sennachie. "Surely ye no' gaun
to send this wee plooky-faced nyaff tae fecht Goliath? Man, that's like pittin' Carluke Rovers up against the 'Gers!"
"Aye weel, Ah've goat ma reasons," Saul telt the Sennachie. He thocht
fur a meenite an' wondered how he could handicap the wee lad even further
frae winnin'. "Ye ken it widna dae tae send wee Davie oot against yon big
hulk athoot the proper weapons. Sennachie, awa' ower tae ma tent an' fetch
ma special armour - ye ken - the heavy swoard, shield, an' spear."
The Sennachie cam' back presently wi' the king's ain armaments. He
haunded the great muckle spear tae wee Davie. The laddie nearly fell ower wi'
the wecht o' it.
"Here," protested Davie. "The burn's no' that wide that Ah hiv tae pole-vault it!"
"That's no' a vaulting pole," The Sennachie said. "Ye chuck at him.
Pint the sherp end at him furst afore ye throw," he added.
"Chuck it?" squeaked wee Davie. "Ah can barely lift it, never mind
chuck it. It steys here," he said determinedly, "Alang wi' a' yon ither
"Scrap metal?" says Saul, quite flabbergasted. "Ah'll let ye ken that
Ah peyed guid goud for the forgin' an' fancywork." 'Still,' he thocht wi'
some appeasement, 'When Goliath kills him Ah'll get tae keep a' yon nice
armour tae masel'.' "Och weel, hiv it yer ain wey, aff ye go . . . Guid
luck," the king said as an efterthocht.
Wee Davie sterted tae walk doon the brae towards the burn. He wis
still teed aff at his brithers, the King, an' the Israelite army in general.
"Ye're a' jist a bunch o' loabby doasers!" he ca'd back at them.
By the time the wee laddie goat doon tae the burn, he hid a drooth that
wid pit shame tae a camel. An' it wis guid waater tae, wi' a tinge o' rid
oan the stanes oan the boattum. This meant that it wis iron waater. That's
the stuff that they mak' Irn Bru frae. Onywey efter he'd dichted his mooth,
he noticed that the burn wended its wey roon' a lang strand o' white
pebbles. He splashed his wey ower tae it an' picked oot five chuckie stanes . . .
The story slackened momentarily as Grandfather's eyes settled on a ripe fruit hung temptingly on a 'Gardeners Delight' tomato vine. He reached over, picked it, and held it between thumb and forefinger right before Justin's face. "The stanes were aboot the size of this tamatey here an' jist as roon'."
Justin, who loved tomatoes, reached out for the succulent fruit but Grandfather quickly popped it into his own mouth. As his teeth crunched noisily into the tomato, a drop of juice spurted forth into Justin's
eye. Grandfather proffered his handkerchief. "There's mair in a cherry
tomatey than meets the e'e." He smiled and went on with the story.
The cool drink frae the burn hid refreshed Davie. He wis feelin' much better an' didnae feel sae crabbit onymair. He sclimbt up the ither
side o' the bankin' an' daunert up the wee bit o' a slope tae whaur yon big
Goliath wis staun'in'.
Noo Goliath, wha hid kilt a hun'er' men, wis ca'd Goliath the Hun'er'.
They also ca'd him Goliath the Hun fur shoart. He leaned oan his spear an' watched wee Davie approach. "Vot are you dooink here mein kinder?" he boomed.
Wee Davie sized up at his opponent afore replyin'. Goliath's lang
black herr an' a big beard an' moustache covered maist o' his sunburnt face.
His een were like twa bits o' poalished droass. The giant hid a big
hook-like nose that ye could open beer cans wi', an' his broken teeth were as
yella as custard. Goliath's heid wis encased in a massive brass helmet wi' a
perr o' coo's horns stickin' oot it. It wis bigger than Davie's mither's jeely pan. His cloak wis the skin o' a musk ox. His erms an' legs bulged
wi' muscles like Desperate Dan's an' his sondals were like twa auld
"Ah'm here tae kill ye," wee Davie stated simply.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" laughed the giant. "This is a choke?"
"Ho! Ho! Ho! yersel' Santa Claus," responded wee Davie. "This is nae joke."
"You com to keel me, vee poy?" Goliath jabbed his thumb against his polished breastplate, a piece o' armour that seemed tae hiv began life
as the end bell o' a steam drum oan a waatertube biler. "After today, they
vil call me Goliath the Hundred-und-one-hauf!" He emphasized this remark
wi' a clang o' his spear slappin' against his shield ( which appeared tae be
the ither end o' yon steam drum). He laughed at his jest an' roared, "You
do not even haf veapon."
"Is that richt?" said wee Davie. He pit his haun' intae his sporran
an' drew oot a fathom o' leather thong.
"What is a fathom, Papa?" asked Ashley-Anne.
Papa, who had spent a few years at sea during his youth, replied, "Six feet, ma wee lamb." He snapped his fingers then corrected himself.
"Och, Ah forgot - everythin's a' metric noo. Weel, let's jist the thong wis
aboot twa metres lang.
"Noo let's see," Grandfather reflected for a moment before holding out
his hand to Justin. "Gie's a wee keek at yer slung, Justin," he prompted.
The old man took the weapon and stretched the soft rubber to test its elasticity. "Aye," he grunted. "They hidnae ony kahouchy in the auld
days. Hunters yased a square o' saft leather, aboot the size o' a pirate's e'epatch, an' cut twa slits oan either side o' it. Then they wid feed
the thong through the slits until the patch sat near the middle. Yin end o'
the thong wis fashioned intae a loop an' fastened tae the wrist. The ither
end wis pinched between the forefinger an' thumb. A roon' stane wis
balanced oan the patch an' the thong wis swung back an' forth, higher an' higher, until it could be swung in a circle like a skippin' rope. Nooadays they
ca' this centrifugal force." This long explanation took his breath away so
he paused for a moment before continuing the story:
Curiously Goliath watched the laddie strauchen the twists oot the
leather thong. "You are goink to strangle me, liebchen?" he grinned. "How are
you goink to reach mein neck, eh?"
Wee Davie didnae say onythin'. He took a wee chuckie stane oot o' his sprorran, placed it oan the slung, an' began his windup. Up the front,
ower his heid, an' doon the back, the slung wis birlin' faster an' faster.
Then a fraction o' a second efter it passed the lowest pint, Davie released
the stane. Goliath never seen it comin' even though it hit him atween the
een. Stunned, he fell tae the grun' wi' a lood thud jist like the winnin'
caber at Cowal Gemes. Quickly the wee boy ran ower tae Goliath an' sterted
tae pu' the giant's swoard oot its scabbard.
"Oooh!" moaned Goliath. "Mein heid ist sair."
Davie, wha by noo wis totterin' aboot tryin' tae keep yon big muckle
swoard balanced upricht above his heid, gasped: "Dinnae fash yersel' man, Ah've goat the very cure fur it richt here."
An' afore Goliath could ask, "You haf aspirin?" wee Davie wheecht the
sherp swoard doon oan the giant's durty neck. The big heid row'd awa doon the
wee bit brae: Clunk-i-ty, clunk-it-y, clunk!
A loud moan could heard ahent him as the Philistines realized that
their champion hid been slaughtered. The Israelites sterted cheerin': "Ea -
sy! Ea - sy! Ea - sy!" an' cam' breengin' doon through the heather then splashin' ower the burn tae congratulate Davie. "Dibs oan the shield," shouted a sodjer. "Yon bronze greaves ur mine," squeked anither. "Ah
waant his leather kilt," yelled someboady else. Soon Goliath wis jist layin' there in his keks.
"Here," protested wee Davie. "A' yon stuff should be mine. Whit will
Ah tak' hame tae prove tae Faither that Ah beat Goliath?"
Saul cam rinnin' up a' oot o' pech. "Tak' his heid," he gasped.
"That'll mak' ye a fine souvenir."
So that's whit wee Davie did. He pit Goliath's heid in his barra an' hurled it hame.
"Here look - the paddlin' pool's fu'," said Grandfather, rising stiffly from his chair. "Ah'll jist gang an' shut the watter aff."
"Papa, what did Davie do with Goliath's head when he got home?" asked Ashley-Anne.
"Och, he jist pit it oan his Mammy's sideboard. An' sure enough it
made a fine showpiece tae talk aboot when visitors cam' aroon'!"
Francis Kerr Young
May 10th, 2003