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!
A series of longer stories from Sanners Gow's collected works to entertain you through lockdoon an' beyont.