Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Book of Scottish Story
Anent Auld Grandfather, &c.

The sun rises bright in France,
And fair sets he;
But he has tint the blithe blink he had
In my ain countree.

Allan Cunningham.

Auld Grandfaither died when I was a growing callant, some seven or aught year auld; yet I mind him full weel; it being a curious thing how early such matters take haud of ane's memory. He was a straught, tall, auld man, with a shining bell-pow, and reverend white locks hinging down about his haffets; a Roman nose, and twa cheeks blooming through the winter of his lang age like roses, when, puir body, he was sand-blind with infirmity. In his latter days he was hardly able to crawl about alane; but used to sit resting himself on the truff seat before our door, lean-ing forit his head on his staff, and finding a kind of pleasure in feeling the beams of God's ain sun beaking on him. A blackbird, that he had tamed, hung above his head in a whand cage of my faither's making; and he had taken a pride in learning it to whistle twa or three turns of his ain favourite sang, "Ower the Water to Charlie."

I recollect as well as yesterday, that on the Sundays he wore a braid bannet with a red worsted cherry on the tap o't; and had a single-breasted coat, square in the tails, of light Gilmerton blue, with plaited white buttons, bigger than crown pieces. His waistcoat was low in the neck, and had flap pouches, wherein he kept his mull for rappee, and his tobacco box. To look at him, wi' his rig-and-fur Shetland hose pulled up ower his knees, and his big glancing buckles in his shoon, sitting at our door-cheek, clean and tidy as he was kept, was just as if one of the ancient patriarchs had been left on earth, to let succeeding survivors witness a picture of hoary and venerable eld. Puir body, mony a bit Gibraltar-rock and gingerbread did he give to me. as he would pat me on the head, and prophesy that I would be a great man yet; and sing me bits of auld sangs, about the bloody times of the Rebellion and Prince Charlie. There was nothing that I liked so well as to hear him set a-going with his auld warld stories and lilts; though my mother used sometimes to say, "Wheesht, grandfather, ye ken it's no canny to let out a word of thae things; let byganes be byganes, and forgotten." He never liked to gie trouble, so a rebuke of this kind would put a tether to his tongue for a wee; but when we were left by ourselves, I used aye to egg him on to tell me what he had come through in his far-away travels beyond the broad seas; and of the famous battles he had seen and shed his precious blood in; for his pinkie was hacked off by a dragoon of Cornel Gardiner's down by at Prestonpans, and he had catched a bullet with his ankle over in the north at Culloden. So it was no wonder that he liked to crack about these times, though they had brought him muckle and no little mischief, having obliged him to skulk like another Cain among the Highland hills and heather, for many a long month and day, homeless and hungry. Not daur-ing to be seen in his own country, where his head would have been chacked off like a sybo, he took leg-bail in a ship, over the sea, among the Dutch folk; where he followed out his lawful trade of a cooper, making girrs for the herring barrels, and so on; and sending, when he could find time and opportunity, such savings from his wages as he could afford, for the maintenance of his wife and small family of three helpless weans, that he had been obliged to leave, dowie and destitute at their native home of pleasant Dalkeith.

At lang and last, when the breeze had blown ower, and the feverish pulse of the country began to grow calm and cool, auld grandfaither took a longing to sec his native land; and, though not free of jeopardy from king's cutters on the sea and from spieson shore, he risked his neck over in a sloup from Rotterdam to Aberlady, that came across with a valuable cargo of smuggled gin. When grandfaither had been obliged to take the wings of flight for the preservation of his life and liberty, my faither was a wean at grannie's breast: so, by her fending,—for she was a canny, industrious body, and kept a bit shop, in the which she sold oatmeal and red herrings, needles and prins, potaties and tape, and cabbage, and what not,—he had grown a strapping laddie of eleven or twelve, helping his two sisters, one of whom perished of the measles in the dear year, to gang errands, chap sand, carry water, and keep the housie clean. I have heard him say, when auld granfaither came to their door at the dead of night, tirling, like a thief o' darkness at the window-brod to get in, that he was so altered in his voice and lingo, that no living soul kenned him, not even the wife of his bosom; so he had to put grannie in mind of things that had happened between them, before she would allow my faither to lift ihe sneck, or draw the bar. Many and many a year, for gude kens how long after, I've heard tell that his speech was so Dutchified as to be scarcely kenspeckle to a Scotch European; but Nature is powerful, and in the course of lime he came in the upshot to gather his words together like a Christian.

Of my auntie Bell, that, as I have just said, died of measles in the dear year, at the age of fourteen, I have no story to tell but one, and that a short one, though not without a sprinkling of interest.

Among her other ways of doing, grannie kept a cow, and sold the milk round about to the neighbours in a pitcher, whiles carried by my faither, and whiles by my aunties, at the ransom of a ha'penny the mutchkin. Well, ye observe, that the cow ran yield, and it was as plain as pease that the cow was with calf;—Geordie Drowth, the horse-doctor, could have made solemn affi-davy on that head. So they waited on, and belter waited on, for the prowie's calving, keeping it upon draff and ait-strae in the byre; till one morning every thing seemed in a fair way, and my auntie Bell was set out to keep watch and ward.

Some of her companions, howsoever, chancing to come by, took her out to the back of the house to have a game at the pallall; and, in the interim, Donald Bogie, the tinkler from Yet-holm, came and left his little jackass in the byre, while he was selling about his crockery of cups and saucers and brown plates, on the auld ane, through the town, in two creels.

In the middle of auntie Bell's game, she heard an unco noise in the byre; and, kenning that she had neglected her charge, she ran round the gable, and opened the door in a great hurry; when, seeing the beastie, she pulled it to again, and fleeing, half out of breath, into the kitchen, cried, "Come away, come away, mother, as fast as ye can. Eh, lyst, the cow's cauffed,—and it's a cuddie!"

The weaver he gaed up the stair,
Dancing and singing;
A bunch a' bobbins at his back,
Raulting and ringing.

Old Song,

My own faither, that is to say, auld Mansie Wauch, with regard to myself, but young Mansie, with reference to my grandfaither. after having run the errands, and done his best to grannie during his early years, was, at the age of thirteen, as I have heard him tell, bound a 'prentice to the weaver trade, which, from that day and date, for belter for worse, he prosecuted to the hour of his death; —I should rather have said to within a fortnight o't, for he lay for that time in the mortal fever, that cut through the thread of his existence. Alas! as Job says, "How time flies like a weaver's shuttle!"

He was a tall, thin, lowering man, blackaviced, and something in the physog like myself, though scarcely so weel-faured; with a kind of blueness about his chin, as if his beard grew of that colour,—which I scarcely think it would do, but might arise either from the dust of the blue cloth, constantly flying about the shop, taking a rest there, or from his having a custom of giving it a rub now and then with his finger and thumb, both of which were dyed of that colour, as well as his apron, from rubbing against and handling the webs of checkit claith in the loom.

Ill would it become me, I trust a dutiful son, to say that my faither was anything but a decent, industrious, hard working man, doing everything for the good of his family, and winning the respect of all that kenned the value of his worth. As to his decency, few— very few indeed—laid beneath the mools of Dalkeith kirkyard, made their beds there, leaving a better name behind them; and as to industry, it is but little to say that he toiled the very flesh off his bones, ca'ing the shuttle from Monday morning till Saturday night, from the rising up of the sun even to the going down thereof; and whiles, when opportunity led him, or occasion required, digging and delving away at the bit kail-yard, till moon and stars were in the lift, and the dews of heaven that fell on his head were like the oil that flowed from Aaron's beard, even to the skirts of his garment. But what will ye say there? Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, and others with a parritch-stick. Of the latter was my faither, for, with all his fechting, he never was able much more than to keep our heads above the ocean of debt. Whatever was denied him, a kind Providence, howsoever, enabled him to do that; and so he departed this life, contented, leaving to my mother and me, the two survivors, the prideful remembrance of being, respectively, she the widow, and me the son, of an honest man. Some left with twenty thousand cannot boast so much; so ilka anc has their comforts.

Having never entered much into public life, further than attending the kirk twice every Sabbath, and thrice when there was evening service, the days of my faither glided over like the waters of a deep river that make little noise in their course; so I do not know whether to lament or rejoice at having almost nothing to record of him. Had Bonaparte as little ill to account for, it would be well this day for him; but, losh me! I had amaist skipped ower his wedding.

In the five-and-twentieth year of his age, he had fallen in love with my mother, Marion Laverock, at the christening of a neebour's bairn, where they both happened to forgather, little, I daresay, jalousing, at the time their een first met, that fate had destined them for a pair, and to be the honoured parents of me, their only bairn. Seeing my father's heart was catched as in the net of the fowler, she took every lawful means, such as adding another knot to her cockernony, putting up her hair in screw curls, and so on, to follow up her advantage; the result of all which was, that after three months' courtship, she wrote a letter out to her friends at Loanhead, telling them of what was more than likely to happen, and giving a kind invitation to such of them as might think it worth their whiles, to come in and be spectators of the ceremony. And a prime day I am told they had of it, having, by advice of more than one, consented to make it a penny wedding; and hiring Deacon Lawrie's malt-barn at five shillings for the express purpose.

Many yet living, among whom James Batter, who was the best man, and Duncan Imrie, the heel-cutter in the Fleshmarket Close, are yet above-board to bear solemn testimony to the grandness of the occasion, and the uncountable numerousness of the company, with such a display of mutton broth, swimming thick with raisins,— and roasted jiggets of lamb,—to say nothing of mashed turnips and champed potatoes,—as had not been seen in the wide parish of Dalkeith in the memory of man. It was not only my faither's bridal day, but it brought many a lad and lass together by way of partners at foursome reels and Hieland jigs, whose courtship did not end in smoke, couple above couple dating the day of their happiness from that famous forgathering. There were no less than three fiddlers, two of them blind with the sma'-pox, and one naturally, and a piper with his drone and chanter, playing as many pibrochs as would have deaved a mill-happer,—all skirling, scraping, and bumming away throughither, the whole afternoon and night, and keeping half the country-side dancing, capering, and cutting, in strathspey step and quick time, as if they were without a weary, or had not a bone in their bodies. In the days of darkness the whole concern would have been imputed to magic and glamour; and douce folk, finding how they were transgressing over their usual bounds, would have looked about them for the wooden pin that auld Michael Scott the warlock drave in behind the door, leaving the family to dance themselves to death at their leisure.

Had the business ended in dancing, so far well, for a sound sleep would have brought a blithe wakening, and all be tight and right again; but, alas and alackaday! the violent heat and fume of foment they were all thrown into caused the emptying of so many ale-tankers, and the swallowing of so muckle toddy, by way of cooling and refreshing the company, that they all got as fou as the Baltic; and many ploys, that shall be nameless, were the result of a sober ceremony, whereby two douce and decent people, Mansie Wauch, my honoured faither, and Marion Laverock, my respected mother, were linked together, for better for worse, in the lawful bonds of honest wedlock.

It seems as if Providence, reserving every thing famous and remarkable for me, allowed little or nothing of consequence to happen to my faither, who had few crooks in his lot; at least, I never learned, either from him or any other body, of any adventures likely seriously to interest the world at large. I have heard tell, indeed, that he once got a terrible fright by taking the bounty, during the American war, from an Eirish corporal, of the name of Dochart O'Flaucherty, at Dalkeith fair, when he was at his 'prenticeship; he, not being accustomed to malt-liquor, having got fouish and frisky—which was not his natural disposition—over half-a-bottle of porter. From this it will easily be seen, in the first place, that it would be with a fecht that his master would get him off, by obliging the corporal to take back the trepan money; in the second place, how long a date back it is since the Eirish began to be the death of us; and in conclusion, that my honoured faither got such a fleg as to spane him effectually, for the space of ten years, from every drinkable stronger than good spring-well water. Let the unwary take caution ; and may this be a wholesome lesson to all whom it may concern.

In this family history it becomes me. as an honest man, to make passing mention of my faither's sister, auntie Mysie, that married a carpenter and undertaker in the town of Jedburgh ; and who, in the course of nature and industry, came to be in a prosperous and thriving way; indeed so much so, as to be raised from the rank of a private head of a family, and at last elected, by a majority of two votes over a famous cow-doctor, a member of the town-council itself.

There is a good story, howsoever, connected with this business, with which I shall make myself free to wind up this somewhat fusty and fuzzionless chapter.

Well, ye see, some great lord,—I forget his name, but no matter,—that had made a most tremendous sum of money, cither by foul or fair means, among the blacks in the East Indies, had returned before he died, to lay his bones at home, as yellow as a Limerick glove, and as rich as Dives in the New Testament. He kept flunkies with plush small-clothes, and sky-blue coats with scarlet-velvet cuffs and collars,— lived like a princie, and settled, as I said before, in the neighbourhood of Jedburgh.

The body, though as brown as a toad's back, was as pridefu' and full of power as auld king Nebuchadneishcr; and how to exhibit all his purple and fine linen, he aye thought and better thought, till at last the happy determination came ower his mind like a flash of lightning, to invite the bailies, deacons, and town-council, all in a body, to come in and dine with him.

Save us! what a brushing of coats, such a switching of stoury trousers, and bleaching of white cotton stockings, as took place before the catastrophe of the feast, never before happened since Jeddart was a burgh. Some of them that were forward, and geyan bold in the spirit, crawed aloud for joy at being able to boast that they had received an invitation letter to dine with a great lord; while others, as proud as peacocks of the honour, yet not very sure as to their being up to the trade of behaving themselves at the tables of the great, were mostly dung stupid with not kenning what to think. A council meeting or two was held in the gloamings, to take such a serious business into consideration; some expressing their fears and inward down-sinking, while others cheered them up with a fillip of pleasant consolation. Scarcely a word of the matter for which they were summoned together by the town-offisher—and which was about the mending of the old bell-rope—was discussed by any of them. So, after a sowd of toddy was swallowed, with the hopes of making them brave men, and good soldiers of the magistracy, they all plucked up a proud spirit, and, do or die, determined to march in a body up to the gate, and forward to the table of his lordship.

My uncle, who had been one of the ringleaders of the chicken-hearted, crap away up among the rest, with his new blue coat on, shining fresh from the ironing of the goose, but keeping well among the thick, to be as little kenspeckle as possible; for all the folk of the town were at their doors and windows to witness the great occasion of the town-council going away up like gentlemen of rank to take their dinner with his lordship. That it was a terrible trial to all cannot be for a moment denied; yet some of them behaved themselves decently; and if we confess that others trembled in the knees, as if they were marching to a field of battle, it was all in the course of human nature.

Yet ye would wonder how they came on by degrees; and. to cut a long tale short, at length found themselves in a great big room, like a palace in a fairy tale, full of grand pictures with gold frames, and looking-glasses like the side of a house, where they could see down to their very shoes. For a while they were like men in a dream, perfectly dazzled and dumfoundered; and it was five minutes before they could cither see a seat, or think of sitting down. With the reflection of the looking-glasses, one of the bailies was so possessed within himself that he tried to chair himself where chair was none, and landed, not very softly, on the carpet; while another of the deacons, a fat and dumpy man, as he was trying to make a bow, and throw out his leg behind him, tramped on a favourite Newfoundland dog's tail, that, wakening out of his slumbers with a yell that made the roof ring, played drive against my uncle, who was standing abaft, and wheeled him like a butterflee, side foremost, against a table with a heap o' flowers on't, where, in trying to kep himself, he drove his head, like a battering ram, through a looking-glass, and bleached back on his hands and feet on the carpet.

Seeing what had happened, they were all frightened; but his lordship, after laughing heartily, was politer, and kent better about manners than all that; so. bidding the flunkies hurry away with the fragments of the china jugs and jars they found themselves, sweating with terror and vexation, ranged along silk settees, cracking about the weather and other wonderfuls.

Such a dinner! The fume of it went round about their hearts like myrrh and frankincense. The landlord took the head of the table, the bailies the right and left of him; the deacons and councillors were ranged along the sides like files of sodgers; and the chaplain, at the foot, said grace. It is entirely out of the power of man to set down on paper all that they got to eat and drink; and such was the effect of French cooker}*, that they did not ken fish from flesh. Howsoever, for all that, they laid their lugs in everything that lay before them, and what they could not eat with forks, they supped with spoons; so it was all to one purpose.

When the dishes were removing, each had a large blue glass bowl full of water, and a clean calendered damask towel, put down by a smart flunkey before him; and many of them that had not helped themselves well to the wine while they were eating their steaks and French frigassees, were now vexed to death on that score, imagining that nothing remained for them but to dight their nebs and flee up.

Ignorant folk should not judge rashly, and the worthy town-council were here in error; for their surmises, however feasible, did the landlord wrong. In a minute they had fresh wine decanters ranged down before them, filled with liquors of all variety of colours, red, green, and blue; and the table was covered with dishes full of jargonelles and pippins, raisins and almonds, shell walnuts and plum-damases, with nutcrackers, and everything else they could think of eating; so that after drinking "The King, and long life to him," and "The constitution of the country at home and abroad," and "Success to trade," and 'A good harvest,' and 'May ne'er waur be among us, and "Botheration to the French," and "Corny toes and short shoes to the foes of old Scotland," and so on, their tongues began at length not to be so tacked ; and the weight of their own dignity, that had taken flight before his lordship, came back and rested on their shoulders.

In the course of the evening, his lordship whispered to one of the flunkies to bring in some things—they could not hear what—as the company might like them. The wise ones thought within themselves that the best aye comes hindmost; so in brushed a powdered valet, with three dishes on his arm of twisted black things, just like sticks of Gibraltar-rock, but different in the colour.

Bailie Bowie helped himself to a jargonelle, and Deacon Purves to a wheen raisins; and my uncle, to show that he was not frightened, and kent what he was about, helped himself to one of the long black things, which, without much ceremony, he shoved into his mouth, and began to. Two or three more, seeing that my uncle was up to trap, followed his example, and chewed away like nine-year olds.

Instead of the curious-looking black thing being sweet as honey,—for so they expected,—they soon found they had catched a Tartar; for it had a confounded bitter tobacco taste. Manners, however, forbade them laying it down again, more especially as his lordship, like a man dumfoundered, was aye keeping his eye on them. So away they chewed, and better chewed, and whammelled them round in their mouths, first in one cheek, and then in the other, taking now and then a mouthful of drink to wash the trash down, then chewing away again, and syne another whammel from one cheek to the other, and syne another mouthful, while the whole time their een were staring in their heads like mad, and the faces they made may be imagined, but cannot be described. His lordship gave hi? eyes a rub. and thought he was dreaming, but no—there they were bodily, chewing and whammelling, and making faces,; so no wonder that, in keeping in his laugh, he sprung a button from his waistcoat, and was like to drop down from his chair, through the floor, in an ecstasy of astonishment, seeing they were all growing sea-sick, and as pale as stucco-images.

Frightened out of his wits at last, that he would be the death of the whole council, and that more of them would poison themselves, he took up one of the cigars,—every one knows cigars now, for they are fashionable among the very sweeps,—which he lighted at the candle, and commenced puffing like a tobacco-pipe.

My uncle and the rest, if they were ill before, were worse now; so when they got to the open air, instead of growing better, they grew sicker and sicker, till they were waggling from side to side like ships in a storm; and, no kenning whether their heels or heads were uppermost, went spinning round about like peeries.

"A little spark may make muckle wark." It is perfectly wonderful what great events spring out of trifles, or what seem to common eyes but trifles. I do not allude to the nine days' deadly sickness, that was the legacy of every one that ate his cigar, but to the awful truth, that at the next election of councillors, my poor uncle Jamie was completely blackballed—a general spite having been taken to him in the town-hall, on account of having led the magistracy wrong, by doing what he ought to have let alone, thereby making himself and the rest a topic of amusement to the world at large, for many and many a month.

Others, to be sure, it becomes me to mention, have another version of the story, and impute the cause of his having been turned out to the implacable wrath of old Bailie Bogie, whose best black coat, square in the tails, that he had worn only on the Sundays for nine years, was totally spoiled, on their way home in the dark from his lordship's, by a tremendous blash that my unfortunate-uncle happened, in the course of nature, to let flee in the frenzy of a deadly upthrowing.— The Life of Mansie Wauch, Tailor in Dalkeith.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus