Michael wiz a gye illtricket laddie and liked tae mak fowk laach. That wiz aaricht as far as that goes but fyles he overstepped the mark and did silly things. One case in point wiz durin the war. Michael wiz ayee on the raik aboot the hairbour lookin for reels wi the fishermen faa liked a gweed laach themsels. Of course Michael played up tae this and in nae time hid them rollin aboot at his antics.
There wiz big aal sheds aside the hairbour and Michael loved tae raik up in the rafters searchin for doo’s eggs. He eased tae collect poochfaes o them then tak them tae the back o the slip faar he’d licht a wee fire and fry the eggs ontae a lump o sheet iron. Bonny and clatty I’m tellin ye! But Michael wolfed them doon packin his mooth wi the eggs and nae one bit o hairm come tae him. Oh god-ova-jezuz but he wiz a clatty chavie!
His aal mither bade in a vennel doon at the fit o Brae street yonder. The hoosie hid at ae time been a bakehoose so there wiz only the one room wi a wee lobby that let oot intae the backie faar there wiz a steen biggit shed and a dry lavie. The sheddie wiz packit full o driftwid he’d collected and a dose o coal that he’d stolen fae the drifters. That wiz een o Michael’s specialties he stole massive lumps o coal in the middle o the nicht fae the boats and trailed them hame throwe aa the lanes. The driftwid wiz nae problem though because durin the day he could use his ould barra for that athoot bein speired at fit he wiz deein. He daurna use his barra for the coal though because fowk wid’ve heard the squeak o the barra gyan up the lanes at nicht drawin unwanted attention tae his ongyans. Na the massive lumps o coal hid tae be cairriet on his hump in a saik. Onywye Michael hid it doon tae a fine art. The big lumps o coal were broken up wi an ould mell intae the sheddie and secreted ahin the piles o driftwid for his aal mither.
His aal mither jist sat at the moo o the hole faar the baker’s oven hid eence been. Michael hid teen a puckle bars o iron fae the slip for tae mak a grate an jist haived a barrafae o coal an sticks ontae the fire fin nott.
The one room wiz fair smeekit wi the reek fae the fire an jist hingin wi seet an wobbs. The room must’ve at ae time been pinted but ye widna think that noo for aa a body kent they micht’ve been sittin inside a lum? It wid’ve teen a squad o navies a week tae clean the clatty room. Funnily even though the place wiz bowfin o clatt an seet the aal uman keepit her braiss paraffin lamps fair shining an they steed oot like gown against the backdrop o seet.
The truth o’t though Michael and his mither were squatters so they couldna veryweel complain tae the landlord aboot the state o the placie. But sayin that they wid nivver complain onywye for the aal bakehoose wiz pure luxury tae them aifter bidin in the back o ayont up the Cabrach wye in a bow camp wi the sparks fleein fae their yaks wi the hunger.
The fishermen were affa gweed tae Michael an he nivver yet left the hairbour athoot getting a fry o fish fae them. As like as nae he’d get a puckle tatties ana. He’d fyles get wee jobbies helpin oot the lads wi their gear an sic like. For this he’d get a fyowe coppers an maybe a bittie tabacca for his mither’s pipe. The fishermen kent fine he chored coal but decided tae dee a Nelson on it by turin a blin ee. The funny thing aboot Michael even though he couldna help himself fin he seen coal ye could leave siller or the best o mait lyin aboot and he widna touch ony o’t. But a lump o coal wiz a completely different maitter aathegither.
The man that echt the hoose they bade in kent fine they were there but jist left them till’t an even wint as far as turn the water back on for them.
Michael widve been aboot twal years aal at the time I’m spikkin aboot. He wint tae skweel but nae for affa lang because he jist couldna manage the lessons for he’d nae the wit for that ava. So for that reason he wiz awa fae skweel at the age o twal. He wis nae scholar but by God he could mak ye laach wi some o his ongyans. Onywye I digress a bittie.
Ae day Michael wiz haein a raik aboot the beach pickin up driftwid an haivin it intae a pile fin he saw something stickin oot o the saan. He saw the glint o braiss so wi a ‘shannish shannish’ tae himself he pulled it oot fae the saan. It wiz a shell o some kind so geein it a dicht he saw it wiz a RN twa pounder wi the date 1942 ontae it. It must’ve been lost aff een o the RN ships in the bey? He dug doon wi his fammils tae see if there wiz ony mair o them but na there wiz only the een. There wiz signs up sayin nae tae ficher wi onything on the beach in case o unexploded munitions, but Michael peyed nae heeds tae that for aa that wiz in his mind wiz tae get the lump o braiss for tae sell. Noo this shell wiz mair nor twa fit lang an aboot as thick as a rollin pin taperin tae a pint wi a big rounded lump o lead at the business eyne. Wi a quick glance aboot him he put it allo his jaicket an leavin the pile o driftwid for later he made his wye hame tae the sheddie wi his treasure. He fichered aboot chappin the shell wi the mell he used tae braak up the coal an a caalcut chisel tae see if he could get it apairt. But aifter millin his fammils a puckle times he gave up an threw the shell wi a clatter intae the corner o the sheddie ‘god-ova-jezuz’! The shell wi be worth a couple o hogg tae him if he could get it separated.
Fair cursin an rubbin his sair fammils he teen his wee barra an made his wye back tae the beach tae fetch the driftwid he’d left. Aye but this time he wisna tae get ontae the beach for the squad o sojers turnin fowk back fae gyan near. Michael tellt een o them he wanted tae pick up his pile o driftwid but the sojer tellt him tae rin tae hell for they were lookin for an unexploded twa pounder pom pom shell that hid been reported by a man earlier that day. Michael thocht tae himself ‘Oh shannish shannish that must’ve been the shell he’d teen hame wi him?’ He didna say that tae the sojer though for they’d pit him intae the jile for stealin it an as like nae gee him a dose o the birch rod ana. Oh shannish! So he ran back hame an said nithing aboot the shell ava. Onywye he wanted the siller for the braiss and lead for himsel if only he could figure oot how tae get the shell apart?
In nae time he wiz back at it an liftin lumps oot o’t wi the haimmer but nae matter fit he did it jist widna separate ava. Fair pechin an sweerin like a trooper he gave it up eence mair in disgust. A good while later he mind on fowk spikkin aboot heatin aal stuff tae get the braiss tae expand so it wid come aff easy.
Noo an idea formed so he teen the shell intae the hoose. His aal mither wiz sittin in her usual place aside the fire haein a forty winks and she wiz even snoring a wee bit. Michael quietly sneaked past her an put the shell intae the hert o the bleazin fire. By gweed luck he stood it up on its eyne an shoved some lowin coals aroon it wi the poker. This kindo woke his mither up and her wee yakies did a blink blink as she sleepily askit Michael “Fit are ye dee-----?” as the shell exploded. The fire grate itsell come oot intae the middle o the room an the hot burnin coals gid stottin aawye, the heed o the shell wint up the lum screamin like a bainshee takin the lum an haaf the reef wi it and scattered the lot intae the middle o the street. Bricks,steens, aish, cinders soot, clatt an paraffin lampies aawye. Michael’s aal mither come staggerin oot fae the wreckage blinkin its eenies an covered in soot sayin
“Oh God a God fit’s that laddie done now?”
Cloods o aish, soot an pure clattyness hung ower the building like a volcano. It gid roon the toon in nae time that a Jerry bomber hid deen a hit an run raid an that dizens o dismembered bodies lay scattered aboot Brae street sic an exaggeration fowk come awa wi fyles! Michael----he wisna there tae hear ony o this for he’d ran awa afore the last bricks hut the grun tae the Cabrach wi the hump o terror on his back in case the authorities put him in the stardy an gave him the birch rod. Oh shannish shannish!
There wiz twa ould beggars that eesed tae ging aboot the toon o Banff lang syne. They were kent as The Baitached Parry and Impa-impa Tigo. The cooncil allowed them tae beg in the toon and baith wore an aal George the third penny roon their necks wi numbers and the streets they were allowed tae beg on. If they strayed they could get the jail fae the constable. Maistly though they keepit tae the same bit o the toon because that’s faar maist o the local’s fowk wint aboot. The Baitached Parry likit one end and Impa-impa Tigo preferred the ither end.
Now as tae their strange names? The Baitached Parry got his because he likit nithing better than sittin takin the lice fae his person an squashin them atween his thoom nails or else pittin them on the pavement faar he sat his begging an baitached the lice wi the side o his closed fammil. An God bless ma soul the smell fae the crushed lice wid mak a body cowk. Impa-impa Tigo got his name because he wiz covered fae heed tae fit in impetigo scurrles. It wiz a bit saft though an the locals said o it that there wiz mair sense in its heed as a hen could grab in its left fist.
Impa thocht he’d the King’s Evil and he’d tell fowk stories aboot his master plan tae ging tae London tae get the ‘King’s Touch’ and be cured. Naebody hid the hert tae tell him there wisnae a king on the throne now but a queen caa’d Victoria and onywye he didna hae scrofulous but impetigo Impa widnae hiv understood that onywye if he’d been tellt because he wiz happy in his delusions and fae atween scrubbin sessions he’d mak his plans. Oh but michty the plans he made tae gyang tae London! If he’d been able tae write his stories doon he could’ve filled volumes. He planned tae save up ivvery penny he got fae the beggin for his epic journey but there wiz precious little pennies tae be gotten at this time. He wisna heedin though. But aa the same he didna starve because the fowk wid gie him morsels an bitties o tabacca for his pipe so he’d tell his lees tae them for entertainment.
Because baith o them got so clatty and thus a public health concern they were periodically teen intae an ould paddin ken at the fit o the Galla Hill and cleaned. There wisna ony choice in the matter. It wiz part o the constable’s job tae check oot the beggars ivvery noo-an-then. First they’d ask tae see their beggars coins. Fae the distance ye’ll understand because only a eedjit wid go within louse jump or impetigo flake distance. Then the constable wid look at their state again fae the distance and note it doon in their wee constable books. Next came the smell test fae ten yards. This wiz a scientific test laid doon in the local cooncil haanbook on beggars. If the constable could smell the rancid hum o pure clattieness fae that distance a note wiz teen tae tak them tae the paddin ken tae be de-clattified. They’d be trailed fae aff the street tae the paddin ken roarin an screamin in chains. Aa done fae a distance ye’ll understand.
There wiz a back room at the paddin ken specially set aside for cleanin ould beggars. There they’d be teen in haan by a woman by the name o Miria O’Keeff. She wiz an Irish woman fae Connemara an it hid a reed heed on it. She’d been a nurse in the Crimea or so it wiz said and if ye saw her that wiz mair than likely true. She wiz a big woman wi shooders on it like a man an a face like a slappit pig’s erse on a freesty mornin.
The beggars were yowted intae the room at the tender mercies o Miria O’Keeff or better kent locally by the beggars as the ‘Reed Bastard’. Their clatty clyse wiz torn fae their humps an thrown intae a bucket and they stood there makin a noise an shakin wi the fear. She always did the Baitached Parry first because he wiz younger an much mair lively. She usually stunned him wi a wullt on the back o the neep wi an ould widden tattie chapper keepit for the job. That quatined him doon richt weel for aa he then did wiz roll aboot groanin in a daze on the big deal table as she gave him his tatties. Pardon the pun.
First ivvery hair wiz removed fae his body apart fae the eyelashes by being dry shaved wi a blunt razor. Need I add by the time she reached his bawbags she’d tae apply the tattie chapper again tae stun the eedjit. Then nostrils, lugs an jinker got plucked wi roosty tweezers but by this time the Baitached Parry hid wint intae shock an its eenies were at the back o its heedy. But that didna last as the ‘Reed Bastard’ applied the boilin water an the saft soap an saan tae his body wi a roch scrubbin brush for cleanin flagsteen fleers. He got so animated at this it teen aa the strength in her massive man’s shooders tae hud the fecker doon till she lashed him on the back o the lug wi the tattie chapper again tae bring on full unconsciousness this time. Poor Baitached Parry jist lay on the big table an whimpered through his dream like state as Miria gave him tammy-come-aroochtum. Aifterhins she sprinkled the parry bites wi sulfur then finished aff wi paintin on gentian violet on tap plus anither lash fae the tattie chapper tae stifle the screams fae Baitached Parry as consciousness returned. He wiz then given a disinfected urset blanket an tellt tae sit on the widden bench at the back o the room an be feckin quate. He sat greetin like a bairn but the Reed Bastard only hid tae show him the tattie chapper for instant silence. The room wisna really silent though because o the low keenin sound that came fae the opposite corner faar poor Impa lay nyackit rolled up in a baa in the foetal position sookin yin o his scabby thooms. Ivvery noo an then he’d roar “Oh waarrrra warrra warrrra!” through his slaivery moiy because he kent fit wiz comin. Oh shannish shannish! The ‘Reed Bastard’ jist grabbit him up fae the fleer like a terrifeart rat an slammed him ontae the big deal table wi a scud and got tae work on him. In nae time ava the near boilin water and the saft soap an saan an scubbin brush scraped it clean wi nithing but impetigo scabs, skin flakes mixed wi bleed rinnin fae aff the table. The noise fae poor Impa wid’ve awakened ould Nick fae his postprandial repose if he hidna been sleepin soundly. Impa begged, screamed, howled, yowled an yodeled but Miria widna stop. Impa even resorted tae makin the sign o the cross roarin “Back! Back! ye evil Reed Bastard!” But she wisna bothered ava aboot this an jist applied the scrubbin brush wi even mair vigour. She wiz weel used tae sic abuse. She’d plenty experience oot in the Crimea o that wi the wounded sojers. It wiz said she kent ivvery sweer word in Irish, Scotch, Gaelic, English an Russian wi even some Turkish yins ana for good measure in case ye didna understand the first yins. Wi twa bottles o gin ower her lip it wiz said she could sweer in Cantonese ana. A pure baigle Ah’m tellin ye!
Next they were teen tae the local jail wuppit in disinfected blankets an keepit there for three days till their new clyse wiz made up. The day they got oot each wiz given a linen seemit, an urset sark, lang urset drawers, a suit o hodden grey dyed yella so they couldna sell it for drink, a cloot bunnet an a pair o beets each. They were given back their beggar’s badges an handed a florin apiece. God-ova-jezuz the Baitached Parry gave a hop skip an jump an twa buck leaps in the air as it made a dive for the toon’s pup. Normally he wid’ve been chased fae the door like a rabid dog but the landlord kent he wiz spotless clean by the yella suit and the sores on his napper painted wi gentian violet so he let it tae the bar tae spend its coin.
Impa wisna like the Baitached Parry in that wye. Leastwyes nae fin he wiz first released. It hid big ideas o traivlin doon tae London tae get the ‘King’s Touch’ tae cure his scrofulous that wiz actually impetigo. He’d hud ontae his florin keepin it secreted in his bolt hole aneth the brigg o Banff. He’d be needin the money for his journey tae London.
At his beggin spot he’d tell the githered fowk o his plans and like the eedjit he wiz he’d even act oot on the street fit he’d dee fin he met the king bowin and aathing. The fowk were in knots at Impa and aa its machinations and oh me it even spoke the panloaf as it did it. Aa the time this wiz gan on the Baitached Parry lookit on fae its beggin spot wi its mooth waterin because he kent Impa must still hae its money. The Parry’s siller wiz lang gone and God bless me it wiz in the horrors o drink and could be deein wi a moothfae o the reed biddy.
Eventually Impa wid faa fae the wagon and tak its money tae get a bottle o drink and of course ye must ken by noo faa wid happen by jist as Impa left the pub wi the bottle o reed biddy in its fist? O michty whit gweed freens the Parry wiz tae poor Impa and acted as if they’d nae spoken for mony a year. Ivvery time Impa fell for it because it wiz a kindly man even though saft. Aifter the bottle o drink wiz emptied the Parry got lippy and wid then pagger poor Impa an tell him tae pit his nose in the twa reed lips o his ersehole afore walkin awa takkin a last sleekit kick at Impa’s heed. That last kick nearly killed Impa but somehow he managed tae get his wye back tae his bolt hole aneath the brigg faar he lay for days in delirium the poor craiter.
The Baitached Parry wisna heedin aboot Impa because wi it awa he got aa the money fae the beggin and aa the mair drink for its lip. By this time the Parry wiz in a livin hive o lice again on the acoont o the clatty place he bade in. He said it wiz his ‘abode’ and wiz at the ‘Stinkin Lochy’ the toon’s rubbish dump. He’d built himself a hut oot o aal rotten sarkin boords and a roof oot o aal sails. Inside wiz fulled o ould cloots and a pish stained mattress tae lie on for its kip. There wiz mair lice in the place as wid’ve supplied enough lice tae keep ivvery flea circus on the planet in staff for a century tae come at least. Clatty bugger min!
Aboot this time the Gordons hid came tae the toon lookin for eedjits tae recruit tae the colours. Of course the sojers liked a good dose o drink themsels and used this tae catch lads for the ranks. The Baitached Parry wiz caught oot in this wye and teen the Queen’s shillin like the drunken panny he wiz. The next day the sojers left the toon tae the skirl o the pipes wi aa the men they’d manage tae recruit in tow. The Baitached Parry marched awa wi its heedy fair rockin because it wiz gan tae be a ‘sojer’ god-ova-jezuz. Marchin through the toon boorachs o fowk hid lined the streets tae wave them tata. An faa should be walkin alang the street at this time but Miria O’Keeff and spotted the Baitached Parry marchin alang wi the sojers. She wint intae her basket and teen oot a massive cake o carbolic soap she’d jist gotten fae the druggists and heaved it at the Baitached Parry shoutin at him “Hud that ye clatty fecker ye’d better pick that up ‘cause ye’ll be needin it soon ye clatty parrified feckwit!” It struck the Parry fair in the lug wi a funny yowt makkin him yowl oot a him like scoudered rat. It roared back at her “Feck off ye evil reed Irish bastard!” deein a bammy wee Irish jig tae emphasise his words. The soap wiz crushed under fifty pairs o army boots and little were they tae ken but that lump o soap wid be worth its wecht in gowd afore affa lang.
By the time the sojers reached the next toon on their list they were aa in a livin movement o lice. The officer in charge wint mental at this because tae him cleanliness wiz next tae Godliness. They didna hae far tae look for the culprit. And onywye some o the new recruits kent the Baitached Parry an clypit on him tae the officer. He ordered the sojers tae strip the clatty bastard and tie him tae yin o the wagon wheels. The Parry wiz set upon and in nae time wiz standin stark mither nyakit wi it’s hannies tryin tae cover its modesty. Once tied tae the wheel ivvery sojer got tae lash him wi a swagger stick. Them that hid the maist lice got tae gie him some extra wullts. The Parry nivver known for his reluctance or the want o makkin a noise let rip an near ruptured his thrapple wi the livin screams that bellowed forth. Aifterhins the sojers burned his clyse tae a dander in front o him an mair than yin o them boakit wi the smell o roastin lice fae the clatty cloots. Then wi yet anither good thrashin they threw it intae a ditch wi it’s hannies yet again tryin tae hide its modesty. It wiz found later by the local constables and ended up in Banff jail for thirty days on really feckin hard labour on dry breed an water for gan nyakit in public and anither thirty days really really feckin hard labour for paggerin poor Impa faa’d been found near tae death. Ivvery nicht there aifter the constables wid go in an gie it yet anither latherin wi their big size thirteen constables boots the dirty sleekit bastard he wiz.
Impa though made a good recovery fae his injuries due tae the careful nursing he got fae Miria O’Keeff. Eence roadin again he thankit Miria for her kindness and tellt her that fin he wiz close tae death under the brigg the King hid visited him and touched him tae cure the ‘King’s Evil’ on him and even knighted him sayin “Arise sir Impa-Impa Tigo laird o these lands all over!” And bestowed a fitting pension upon his hump for as lang as green girrs growes an clear water rins. Funny thing though Impa wiz nivver bothered wi the scabs again and even wint on tae mairry Miria O’Keeff faa’d fell in love wi him as she’d tended his injuries.
The Baitached Parry? Well aifter it got oot o the jail it cleared oot o Banff nivver tae be seen again. Some fowk said he’d been smoored by the doctors because o the lice. Yet ithers said that the radge hid made its wye tae London lookin tae get knighted like Impa and ended up in the Tower squashin lice till its herts content. Leatwyes aa the lice it could reach due tae the short length o chains that held the fecker tae the waa.
Well I dinna ken aboot you but I canna believe ony o the lees this bamstick writes? Its as bad as the fowk it writes aboot and a good lash on the crump fae Miria’s tattie chapper wi dee it the world o good. Feckin fool!
t wiz a fine saft forenicht as Cathy lay fochendeen in the bow camp on tap o a puckle straa for a bed. For wiks noo she'd nae been feelin weel an this day hid been by far the worst. The lump in her side seemed tae beat oot its pain wi the rhythm o her hairt an o me but she wiz weak. For the past month an mair she'd been hardly able tae keep doon a dish o tay let alane a bite o mait. She kent richt weel her time wiz near an yet there wiz so muckle left tae dee. She heard her granbairns playin aroon the camp, peer wee thingies, as if they'd nae suffered eneuch wi lossin their mither an faither tae the winter fever. Her dochter Teeny hid teen the fever an deet in three days. Her man Alec hid laisted a wik.
Aa that Cathy winted wiz tae get them tae Eden a wee bittie fae Macduff. At Eden there wiz a Tinker's camp caad the ‘Lichtin Green’ aside the ruined castle. Some o their ain wid be there an they'd tak care o the fower wee bairns. The minister at Eden wint by the name o the Reverend Gordon S. Gow an wiz the kindest man that ivver waakit the face o the earth an nae wye wid he let the authorities pit the bairns intae a home as they did dee in ither parishes. He kent the Tinker wyes an nivver made a feel o their ancient beliefs an mony's the time he'd stood up for them against the officials so he wiz lookit on by the Tinkers as a hero.
Throwe the bit gap o the canvas that acted as a door she could see her aalest granbairn Mary scutterin aboot at the fire makin a moothfae o tay for her grunny. The peer wee craiter it wiz only nine years aal but aaready wiz showin the determination that she'd need tae get throwe the coorse times aheed. If it hidna been for Mary they'd nivver hae gotten this far on the road. She'd stuck tae her grunny like a limpach (limpet).
Rinnin spraachin (beggin) fine things fae the fairms an cottar hooses they passed on the road but first gettin Cathy sutten doon an tellin the younger yins tae look aifter their grunny.
“Aye God bless her but she wiz a wonder!” mummled Cathy. She wiz that tired though that the words were hardly able tae pass her lips.
That very day she'd seen the fabled 'Prechum Steen' that portended her ain death. It wiz said amongst the Tinkers that here in the Cabrach is the very place their race began and that they were originally steen workers. At that time the Cabrach wiz covered in the lushest forests fulled o giant deer an the burns were said tae be stappit foo o fish.
The Tinkers as they're kent noo were at that time the finest steen shapers in the hale land: they could fashion steen aixes, flint arras an workin tools o aa description. Fin ither steen workers made roch tools the Tinkers made them polished an smooth and even then they were famed among the tribes far an near. It wiz said they'd a magic pillar steen given tae them by the gods an they prayed tae it so that their haans could fashion the steens like nae ither.
The ‘Prechim Steen’ so named aifter the ancient godess o dreams an truth stood at the side o a wee lochin and wiz protected fae the een o them that werena o the same tribe by a palisade o waan, rowan an hazel trees wiven thegither an still livin.
Noo that's as far as that history gyangs but tae this day Tinkers ken their time on earth is near up if they dream on seein the ‘Prechum Steen’ but occasionally like in Cathy's case she actually pit ee on it. She marked it weel in her mind that very mornin as she saw it glintin in the early mornin frost. It wiz a gift fae the ancient gods o her fathers and she kent fine fit she hid tae dee tae get their help for aa Tinkers o the bleed were brocht up bein tellt how tae invoke their help.
It is tellt among the Tinkers how in ancient times their forefathers looked aifter this magic steen for the gods an in return their tribe wiz given the gift o workin steens intae the best tools in the land.
A king fae a distant land heard o these fowk and the Prechum Steen wi it's magic powers so he teen his army tae steal it. Onywye, he laid siege tae the place but the Tinkers werena willin tae let their gift fae the gods be teen awa fae them athoot a fecht so fecht they did.
Months passed an nae side could ootdee the ither till eventually the king got his men tae mak rafts o logs and closed aff the lochan fae the Tinkers an teen awa their source o mait an water. Aifter that it wiz only a maitter o time afore the enemy wid get ower the tap o them an slaachter ivvery man, woman an bairn.
So on a nicht fin darkness wiz complete aa the Tinkers left that place forivver . Nae a sound wiz made, nae a hoast or a fitfaa wiz heard by the enemy an they got clean awa. Neist mornin the army teen the place and in nae time they set aboot diggin up the magic ‘Prechum Steen’ but nae maitter foo muckle they dug next day aathing teen oot the day afore wiz back in the hole and eventually aifter sivven lang years they hid tae gie it up an return hame. The only thing they gaed awa wi wiz a chunk they'd managed tae brak aff o the tap an little gweed it did them for nae one man o that army reached their hameland. Their king wiz said tae be the last man tae dee an lies somewye atween the Cabrach an Bennachie.
The gods were angry wi the Tinkers and in punishment they teen awa their ‘Prechum Steen’ fae the sicht o fowk an the lochan far the steen stood is in the same place weel oot o the sicht o men.
The name o the lochan is the real name that Tinkers caa themsels and as the centuries passed an times changed they became workers o tin though they still caa themsels aifter that hidden lochan but tae abody else they are Tinkers.
The ‘Prechum Steen’ an the nameless lochan became as a fable amongst the Tinkers but the ancient gods werena aathegither cruel an hid left them gifts; een o them wiz the gift o divination.If a Tinker dreams o the ‘Prechum Steen’ that means the gods want the dreamer at the ‘Tap Camp’ but if ye see it in space then that means the gods can be askit for help. Cathy smiled tae hersel sadly- could this only be the vision o a deein aal woman faa's desperate?
She teen oot her spyuchin (purse) an fae it a twa'r three coins that she'd gie tae wee Mary in case the gods didna help her. But ae coin she pit intae the pooch o her cwite for that yin she'd nott afore lang. Her aal faither hid given her the coin on his deein day sayin that she'd ken the time tae spen it fin it cam. Noo that time wiz here, she'd ask the gods tae grant her a fyowe mair days tae get the bairns safe an then they could tak her tae the ‘Tap Camp’ faar the music an stories gyang on athoot eyn an the kettle is forivver fulled o the very best Tinkie's slab (tea).
She caad oot for wee Mary tae come intae the camp and handed her the puckle coppers sayin, “Mary I've tae ging awa for a filie an if I dinna come back by the forenicht tak you the bairns up tae the fairm abeen this quarry an ging tae the fairmer Bill Gow by name at Sooraldaab an tell him faa ye are an that he's tae get ye tae his brither at Eden faa's the minister there. He'll see ye get tae yer ain folk.”
Wee Mary's een fulled o saat tears for young though she wiz she kent her grunny wiz affa nae weel. Tearfully she promised that she'd dee as she'd been bid and gaed intae her grunny's bosie sobbin fit tae brak her aal grunny's hairt. Dichtin Mary's tears wi her thooms she askit o her tae get a hazel staave for her journey. Fin Mary left, Cathy teen the ither bairns tae her bosie an tellt them tae dee Mary's biddin an it teen aa the work in the world tae hud the saat tears back fae her aal een though her hairt wiz brakkin in twa.
In nae time Mary cam back wi a fine strong staave an got her grunny roadit helpin her tae wun oot o the low bow camp. Michty but Cathy wiz affa wyke but she hoped she'd be able tae mak it tae the Prechum Steen.
Mary waakit a wee bit o the road wi her grunny but Cathy tellt her tae ging back tae her sisters an brither. She held the bairn ticht an muttered aa the blessins on her an begged the gods tae gie her strength tae gyang throwe the comin days athoot her grunny.
Cathy struggled alang stoppin an startin ivvery fyowe yards as the pain in her side wiz near takkin the braith fae her. Ae time she teen the coin fae her pooch that her aal faither hid given her on his deein day. It wiz made o siller aboot the size o a saxpenny but misshapen an on the front a man that wiz supposed tae be the Bruce or so she'd eence been tellt. The man that tellt her offered her twa haafcroons for it but Cathy widna pairt wi it for ten times that. Mony's a time she could've spent it but her faither's words stoppit her
“Ye'll ken the time tae spen it fin it comes”.
This wiz 'that time' an her seein the ‘Prechum Steen’ that very mornin proved it. She cairried on a bittie at a time till she cam tae the haanfae o girss she'd laid doon at the roadside as a marker but look though she did nae a sign o the steen could she see. The forenicht wiz weel on by this time an the licht wiz beginin tae fail, Cathy kent she'd nae manage tae wun back the road for she'd used the last o her strength tae get tae this place an the pain intae her side wiz teerin the intimmers fae her. Tae her it lookit aifter aa like it wiz only the fancy o a deein an desperate aal collich (woman) that hid believed a fairie tale an noo she wiz in this place that she'd nae be leavin.
Leanin gey heavy ontae her staave Cathy wiz on the point o lettin hersel faa tae the grun fin a glint ontae something cast by the settin sun teen her ee. Wi her hairt thumpin she hirpled across the peat bog, faain ivvery puckle steps but keepin her een ontae the fabled steen. Aifter a gey painful chauve, she at the hinner eyn, reached the steen an held ontae it like grim death in case it wint awa fae her. A fyle later ,aifter catchin her braith she could see the lochin wi its watter as black as jet streetchin awa intae forivver. The air here wiz fresh an smelled sweet as the finest summer’s day.
The ‘Prechum Steen’ itsel wiz fite as the driven snaa an aboot as heich as twa big men an as broad as an oak. It wiz said that at the very tap a big lump o't wiz missin shape like a bite fae a giant. Cathy could see that wiz true enough for a big lump wiz oot o't. Cathy teen aff her aal cwite an takkin the siller coin intae her left haan, the haan nearest the hairt she leaned her back against the ‘Prechum Steen’ lookin forrit at the black watter and cannily waakit intae the lochan up tae her chest. The watter wiz freezin caal an near sapped the very last bit o life fae her.
Afore she lost her mind wi the caal Cathy flung the coin as far as she could intae the deep watters o the lochin askin the gods o the place tae grant her but a fyowe mair days o life tae get the bairns settled. Slowly she backed oot o the watter athoot lookin eence ower her shooder for if she did then the gods wid grant nithin bar death. Still gyan backwyes Cathy eventually felt the ‘Prechum Steen’ at her back and thankit the gods for guidin her tae it. Lettin hersel slide doon the steen she cooried fae the bitter breeze that hid sprung up fae naewye. Raxxin for her cwite Cathy shudderin haapit hersel fae the caal. She must've slept lang for fin she waakened the moon wiz heich an she wiz covered in frost. Somehow wi a gey fyaacht she managed tae get tae her feet an wi ivvery been in her body on fire she by the help o her staave made her wye back tae the quarry.
Fin she got there by the scam o the moon she could see the bairns were awa. Wee Mary hid deen as she'd bid her dee. Fair caa’d deen an in fact thinkin lang for a suppie mait Cathy crawled intae the camp an wupped hersel intae a blanket thinkin o a fine lump o cheese an a corter o breid.
The next she kent the birdies were chirmin in the trees an somebody wiz shoutin her name. A heed lookit in aifter she managed tae croak faar aboot she wiz. It wiz a loon fae the fairm an she heard him roarin for Mr Gow.
“O my God Cathy faar hiv ye been? We've been raikin the country far an near for ye the hale nicht. The bairns are safe up at the fairm but Mary is in a gey state aboot ye!”
He speired at some o the loons tae lift Cathy ontae the back o the cairt an in nae time she wiz in the kitchen at the fairm wi fine saft blankets wuppit aboot her an the bairns aa tryin tae get intae her bosie at the same time. Ower the next fyowe days Cathy begun tae feel that the sareness in her side wiz gettin less an that she could keep mait doon athoot bein seeck.
Cathy wiz weel acquant wi Bill Gow for she'd hawked his aal mither an gey an affen tellt her fortune as weel as aa the quines that vrocht aboot the place. Mony's the time she'd sat in this very kitchen sellin odds an eyns oot o an aal leather case fin Bill Gow an his brither Gordon were rinnin aboot in short breeks an fyles a snotter tae their noses ana.
Little did she think back then the twa loons wid growe up tae be sic gran cheils. Yin a big fairmer an the ither a man o the cloth. Bill wiz in an affa state aboot her an couldna dee enough for her comfort ayee makin sure she wiz warm eneuch an hid the fire bankit up o peats day an nicht. Mary wiz sic a gweed worker aroon the kitchie that Bill's wife Bunty wintit her tae bide on so Cathy wiz gi’en a wee cothoosie at the side o the glen athoot ony rent tae pey. It wiz jist a wee aal bucht but it wiz up tae the sun an fine an dry. It wiz jist the very place for an aal Tinker collich tae see oot her days. Mary landit up mairryin een o the fairmer's loons an her grunny wiz kinichtit that she lived lang eneuch tae see that.
The lump in Cathy's side nivver left her but there wiz nae pain an she could ait like a horse.The gods hid granted her much mair than the fyowe days she'd askit for.
A post script for this story though is that mony a lang year later, a gey aal collich by noo an a granmither as weel, Cathy teen her last illness. She lay ontae a fine feather bed an fine she kent that she wiz on her wye tae the ‘Tap Camp’. She hidna dreamed o the Prechum Steen as a warnin. Na she nivver nott till-since the forenicht at the lochan sae lang syne the gods hidna jist grantit her life but also the ability tae see something o the future.
The gods lookit doon weel on her granbairns an gweed lang lives they'd hae. For Mary, hooivver there wiz tae be a black cloud o some kind that she widna wun throwe so she'd need tae be owerseen. Cathy speired at Mary tae come tae her side an handed her a coin, the very yin that she'd thrown intae the lochan aa that years ago. The gods hid pitten it back intae her pooch fin she lay at the bottom o the ‘Prechum Steen’. Waikly Cathy said “You tak this coin Mary ye'll ken the time tae spen it fin it comes”!
Aal Mrs Lowe wiz affa come at. She’d geen tae milk Jinty her goat but she’d only produced aboot a quarter o the milk she usually did ilka day. She thocht tae herself that something wiz wrang wi Jinty so she gid her a drappy meal mixed wi treacle tae see if that wid help tak her milk back. Onywye she tried that but neist day her milk wiz still the same. Noo the milk she hid in the coggie wiz perfect as usual so there wisna ony signs o illness. Aftimes fin a goat’s milk fell like this ye could smell it if something wiz wrang or fyles a budy could find a bleed spot in the milk if there wiz ony kind o infection. She washed Jinty’s teats an checked them tae see if there wiz something wrang there but nae a thing did she find.
That nicht she tellt Wully her man fan he came hame fae the plooin. He didna ken muckle aboot goats ava an apart fae aitin a bittie goat’s cheese noo an then he couldna care less. But seein foo upset his wife wiz he tried tae help wi a puckle suggestions. Mrs Lowe jist shook her heed for it wiz obvious he kent bugger all aboot goats. But one thing though he did say in the passin wiz that he mind fan he wiz but a bairn een o the cottar wifies that bade aside them hid heen the same kind o problem wi her goat and aifter puzzling ower the heeds o this for a fair fylie hid fun oot that futtritts hid been sookin the goat at nicht. She’d come across wee preenpricks on the goat’s teats. Seemingly they’d been wunnin intae the shed faar the goat sleepit. She’d closed aff aa the places faar the futtritts could wun in and that hid solved the problem. Mrs Lowe teen this een onboord an decided she’d hae a closer look at Jinty’s teats in the morning. Jinty sleepit in fit hid been an aal henhoosie at ae time. It wiz a gweed set up wee hoosie but the biggest problem wiz that Jinty widna aloo herself tae be shut in ava and twice hid kickit the door doon tae wun oot. Aifter that Mrs Lowe hid left her tae sleep there athoot a door.
Jinty wiz a gyan aboot goat an jist wannert aboot the placie as she pleased. She nivver wannert far apart fae fyles she’d gyang intae Fukiesteen widdies aside the Mains searchin for a tasty morsel.
Neist morning afore she milkit Jinty Mrs Lowe checked the goat’s teats an tae her amazement she fun wee preenpricks. Ye jist widna hae spotted them if ye hidna kent fit tae look for. That nicht at supper she tellt Wully fit she’d fun. He tellt her the best thing tae dee wid be tae shut Jinty in at nicht tae stop them. But Mrs Lowe reminded him fit happened the last time they tried tae close her in. Wully fairly mind on that so he suggested she should keep a watch faar aboot the futtritts came fae and he’d set traps for them at their hole.
So that very forenicht Mrs Lowe teen oot a stool fae the hoose an settled doon tae her wyvin watchin the henhoose aa the while. Jinty wiz fair kinichted wi her sittin there so came inaboot and made a fuss roon her for a fylie then headed tae her hoosie. By gweed luck she liked tae sleep jist inside the entrance so that wiz fine she’d be able tae keep an ee on her for as lang as the licht laisted. It wiz a fine saft nicht so Mrs Lowe enjoyed sittin deein her knittin in the fresh air but ayee keepit an ee on Jinty. Jist afore it got ower dark Mrs Lowe decided there’d be little pynt on her sittin ony langer as there seemed tae be nae ongyans ava fae the futtritts. She put her oo intae her pyoke an wiz aboot tae leave fin she saw Jinty comin oot fae her hoosie an start walkin doon the road towards Funkiesteen widdies. Her knittin pyoke forgotten she follyt Jinty. Ivvery noo-an-then Jinty stoppit an wid hae a quick look aroon afore she carried on makkin her wye tae the widdies. Mrs Lowe hid nivver seen sic ongyans fae Jinty afore so she keepit ahin but at a distance. Doon doon Jinty wint towards the widdies as if she kent exactly faaraboot she wiz gyan. Ivvery noo-an-then she’d stop for a look aroon afore she carried on eence mair.
It wiz gye dark in the widdies so Mrs Lowe hid tae tak care as tae faar she put her feet. The last thing she’d nott wiz tae braak her ankle on some unseen stickin oot tree reet. Eventually Jinty stoppit an started bleatin oot o her. She did this for a minty or twa an Mrs Lowe hidin ahin a tree oot o sicht wiz fair puzzled at this strange ongyans fae Jinty. It wiz gye eerie in the widdies as the licht failed an it got eerier by the meenit an stories lang forgotten aboot goats bein the ‘Gweed Man’s’ servants came tae the fore in her mind. As a bairn she’d heard plenty strange stories aboot the goats an their ongyans that mony’s the time she’d geen tae her bed an happit her heed wi the blankets terrifeart o seein ‘the ‘Gweed Man’s’ goats. Noo aa this thochts came rushin back tae her an the fear came ontae her hidin ahin the tree watchin Jinty bleatin oot o her. Mrs Lowe let the wee lassie in her free as she imagined that Jinty wiz summoning her maister tae come up fae Hell tae gie him some o her milk for it wiz said there wiz nithin he liket better than a sook o fine fresh goat’s milk. Mrs Lowe in a spleeter o panic an thoroughly terrifeart thocht she’d better leave afore ‘Aaal Leather Tail’s’ heed an shooders started tae wun up fae aneath the grun. She wiz on the pynt o takkin tae her heels fin oot o the corner o her ee she saw movement comin fae allo a coupit tree’s reets. Oh me she wiz ower late Leather Tail wiz comin oot fae the tree reets. She started tae whimper a wee bit an wiz on the point o knypin back tae the hoose as if the hounds o Hell wiz nippin at her heels. Aa this kind o thochts an mair came tae the fore fin she then saw fit the movement actually wiz. Fae below the reets aboot a dizzen wee black an fite kittlins ran up tae Jinty an started haein an affa excited cairry on wi her, gyan roon aboot her as if playin. Mrs Lowe jist steed there open mooed at this ongyans fin Jinty lay doon on her side an allowed the wee kittlins tae suckle her. There wisna enough teats for them aa at eence so them that wyted their turn played on tap o Jinty as ony geets wid dee. Jinty wid push aboot at them wi her nose an ivvery noo-an-then she’d lick at their cwytes like their ain mither wid’ve deen. Aifter they’d aa eventually gotten fed they left tae gyang back allo the tree reet eence mair. Jinty aifter a wee check they were settled made her wye back tae her hoosie folliet at a distance by Mrs Lowe faa felt she’d jist seen a miracle happen afore her very een. She’d came tae the conclusion that kittlins’ mither hid maist likely deet or been killed an somehow Jinty hid came across the wee catties starving tae death an started tae feed them. Jinty wint intae her hoosie an syne settled doon for the nicht. Mrs Lowe steed lookin ower at her goat wi her hert filled at fit she’d been a witness till an dichted awa the tears. She nivver tellt her man Wully aboot fit she’d seen the nicht afore but only let him ken him aathing wiz fine an that Jinty’s milk wiz back tae normal. Aifter this though Mrs Lowe wid watch fae the scullery windae ilka nicht as Jinty made her wye doon tae the widdies tae feed the wee catties. She’d wun back in aboot an oor’s time an gyang intae her hoosie an contentedly settle herself doon for the nicht. This wint on for a fyowe weeks till eventually ae nicht Jinty nivver left her hoosie. Neist morning Mrs Lowe wint doon tae the spot she’d seen the catties comin oot fae an apart fae the usual obvious signs o habitation the catties were gone. Jinty hid fed them till they could fend for themsels. Wi the tears fleein fae her she made her wye back and gave Jinty loads o bosies as she sat at the door o her hoosie. The catties noo? Well fyles she’d see een or twa gyan aboot the place but they’d nivver come near nae matter foo muckle she trysted them tae wun tae her. Aifter aa they were wild beasties. But they’d ayee hae a work wi Jinty though an mony’s the time she’d see a puckle o them playin aboot wi her inside the hoosie.
A series of longer stories from Sanners Gow's collected works to entertain you through lockdoon an' beyont.