The Melliah Boh!
The following piece, bearing the above name, is an attempt to transfer living characters, with a few contemporary surroundings, from the writer’s memory to paper, as these existed at Ballavair some twenty-five or twenty-six years ago; dwelling now, as they ever will dwell in his mind, as a kind of pleasant dream. A dream is indeed the proper term, as one finds nothing now which in the least recalls those good old days. Let anyone who knew Ballavair then go and see it now — or see, for that matter, any other farm in any other parish. He will at once agree that all now looks deserted, cheerless, and miserable, where in those days it was well populated, and all around smiling with waving crops of grain — populated, too, with a people who were contented and happy, whereas now any solitary labourer you meet looks almost like a mournful camel crossing the great Sahara desert. The Melliah as depicted here is, the writer thinks, a fair representation of the jollification allowed to all the harvest workers on the day when the last of the season’s grain was cut; and the persons named were more or less leading features in the band of shearers then employed. The truth or otherwise of their several descriptions he must leave to the judgment of any reader who, like himself, was present on the scene. He anticipates a ready forgiveness at the hands of his old friends whom he has taken the liberty of naming herein, whose names in very deed he cites with nothing short of an affectionate remembrance of them and the good owl times.
Just thirty thurrans in the haccad we’d got
Of oats, and barley, and whate;
Th’ was a sleugh out and a bit to cut —
The harvis was rather late.
Well, man, the Melliah was took to-day,
‘Is a show, though the fun wis them days gone!
We worked that day till half-past three,
Instead of dinner from twelve to one.
We had started at seven that mornin’ bright —
The women and gels was a thrate to see!
With their putty washed prints and stockins so tight –
‘Pon me sowl, I was full of glee!
With bright hooked sickles in oxther placed,
An’ them rale owl sun-bonnets, bless their hearts!
Along the dewy hedges their way they traced —
They defied, for freshness the finest arts!
The sun was rising over Ramsey Bay,
And he shone through millions of cobwebs bright
That trailed o’er the stubble along our way –
Fairy carpet as wov’n overnight.
The breeze came softly in from the sea,
Just kissing the dewdrops off the corn;
A feathery mist hung o’er the lea,
Presaging the older day to be warm.
A new-mown mead was on our left,
The fleecy mist couldn’t hide it there,
For, unless to one of all sense bereft,
It breathed its presence in luscious air.
The refracting spar of old Claugh-veddin
Shone bright, like a star in emerald green,
On the Fanks hard by was Phil’s bock-beddin
Nipping close, as that grass is short I ween.
On the right, standing high, with feathery cap,
Loomed bold Barrule in the distance, blue,
While down her slope, as ’twere in her lap,
The tower of Albert peeped in view.
The smoke of Ramsey in lazy curls
Crept slowly up the mountain’s side,
While a yacht off the harbor her sail unfurl
As she leaves on the morning tide.
That lovely bay like a silver sheet
So placid now; with outspread arms,
Holds wide its welcome to the passing fleet
To shelter on its bosom in storms.
This morn it is crossed by a golden stream,
Thus mirroring the glorious sun;
A shelt’ring vessel appears to dream
She will weigh and continue her run.
The sombre shadows of Maughold Head
Seem to bathe themselves in the bay,
Diving down, as it were, to the mermaid’s bed,
Picking sharply out their downward way. —
“Now then,” says Jem, as the field we rache
(That field was far Jem Matts),
“Nan an’ me to the forerigg! you brats to tache
To follow behine in our thracks.
Put Pitts on the ghart, an’ if he can’t keep up
Ler him go wi’ the gells to make bans.
If he can’t do that, ler him help to stook
Where he’ll ger a few tissles in his han’s.
An’ as thrue as ‘am here if he doesn’t look out
An’ work his siggle like a man to-day
At the Melliah he’ll get the dirty ger out,
I’rnt care wharever he may say!”
Then up to Jem waddled spagaugh Pitts,
And he swung his sickle right round his head;
He swore till it all flew off in spits,
He’d any day work owl Jem into bed.
“Keep yer win to cool porrage wis Pitts ya bough!
Ye could do wis Bill Boyd’s bellows for such!
‘Is a pity y’ll not want to cool y’r jough,
Then to-night y’ wouldn’t get too much!”
Then Jem made his back a little more bent
(It was bent nearly plenty to start);
The sickle made a gling and a grunt as it went
Through handfuls of corn like a bart!
“And a notin’ we will go, my boys,
A notin’ we will go,
Wi’ the white cockade stuck in our hats
We’ll cut a gallan’ show.”
Such was the only verse Jem ever sang,
He called on his wife for a ban;
Ses he, “If the Melliah’s to be took to-day,
Ye mus’ follow meself and Nan!”
Then into it goes a couple from the ‘roads,’
The Nimples, Margate, and ‘Riar,
Owl Nannie said Margate would shear wis her,
But Margate said, “Ye’re a liar!”
She left her daughters to do their rig,
But she found a partner in Ned;
Ned was a sailor, but fond of a jig
So the Melliah got into his head.
Then owl Bill Quayle with many tight coughs
Flung his sleeve-waistcoat some yards away,
An’ with a spit in his han’s, said he was as tough
As the fust day he’d gone to saa!
The ‘herrins’ was the length of Bill’s sailing rope,
But the yarns he spun was a show —
He must have doubled capes Horn and Hope
And passed the Indy Islands in a row!
“All hands to the pump!” cries Bill with a song,
As he hitched up his breeches in his belt,
“Weigh anchor! chit reesh Jinny Veg, ding, dong!”
We’ll work gell while there is a welt!
Lin a han’ wi’ the jough me little Gilthabeg;
Man, alive! sho’ra seen us at saa;
Seen us dhrink jough by the froughin keg
Ay, till our waiscad buttons flew away.”
Betty Howland joined with her sister Ann,
A cleaner pair of shearers never stood;
They bent to a rig — for fun they would run
Ahead of the fore-rig, as they always could.
“Now then, Clarke Beg, keep your eye off me,”
Ses Jem “An’ thry to bin’ yer back.
There’s Betsy, too man, a thrim little three,
If I was younger I’d know my tack!”
Now Cannan cuss the eyrish and do yer bes’,
There’s Kirry Bill Quayle will do for to-day,
Ye would rather we know follow Captain and Jess
And be turnin’ a bit of lay.
“Howl her boy,” cried a voice from Kinlough hedge,
An’ we looked around, though we knew
Whose “rolding motion” as Jem called his trudge
Brought stout big Corkhill to view.
“Howl her,” said Bill, “or her bilers will bust,”
An’ he laughed like an earthquake’s rowl;
It was Margate he saw, the Nimples were fust,
“Steam is up,” said Bill, “be me sowl.”
If they go like this there’ll be shaves be goch,
Enough for a dozen to stook!
But come on, Bob Clague! have a pull of jough,
And never behind us look.
The ring of the sickle in the rustling corn
“Was all you heard now far and wide.
Like close lined infantry in the act of storm
They felled their thousands on every side.
To name these warriors with crooked swords
(Two score there were short two)
Is more than time or paper affords,
Besides we’ve the Melliah in view.
Tom Dug on a rig with swivvle Ann Yack,
We couldn’t however so very well pass.
Tom wheezed but spit in his han’s with a whack
Sayin’ the Dug was the bully of all Kewn-jas.
He had floor’d Jack Quayle an’ Billy the Square,
“While he hoult Bill Pherric in his fis’ like a meg;
Wis one han’ claned a whole tent at the fair
An’ shook the guts ou’ra the Ballabeg!
Etty Colquet smart and spruce as any
Looking grave as ever and very quite,
Was shearin’ her rig with Corkhill Nanny,
Looking both the picture of doin’ right.
Bill Beg too — “Bollah,” ses Bill,
An’ he cocked one eye up in wondther,
Smelling high with long hooked nose an’ quill
Eksackly like a duck in tondther.
The Baath was slowly commin’ with a scythe,
“In the name of Tommy, wha’s this?
Death himself is come at last for his tithe,”
Ses Bill, “An’ am sure it is.”
The Baath, however, made no such demands
(Tho’ Juan was charged with butcheraugh enough)
He began all silent to carry out commands,
In mowing a part for the sickle too rough.
Well the sun hung just o’er Gobavothy’s nose
When the fore-rig and ghart in warfare met.
The Harvis was therefore nearin’ the close
With hackin’ and blowin’ and plenty of sweat.
And now the crop of fifty-eight
The remaining ears on their stobbs
Stood manfully up a han’ful or wisp,
Nodding brave defiance to the odds.
The attacking forces here withdrew,
According to the good owl fashin,
Then into the wisp every sickle they threw
With hooray and jingle an’ slashin.
But also followin the Melliah day laws
Owl Nannie our senior with dignity grand
Steps up an’ a weapon from the pile she draws
And strikes the last ears from their legs to the land.
Then hooray for the Melliah! the Melliah is took!
Shouted Sthuggas far over a score.
Poor Aasther carry’n Bob-a-loo on her back
And Billy an’ Veg, an’ many more.
The Melliah was carefully gathered up
And tastefully plaited into shape,
A trophy dainty to grace Melliah Cup
And the dinner, well tied with a tape.
Then home they went to their several cots
For a wash an’ to brighten their faces,
The young men racing and jumpin’ over stooks,
The gels making bets as to waises.
But shlown an’ sogaraugh Tommy Gale
Came soldierin’ an’ pushin’ the gells
He’s snaiken about as sure as the mail,
An’ something nice to the young ones tells.
Bill Beg said atin was nothin’ else to him
But filling up a sack that was impty,
Whether porrage an’ dhry lumps, thick or thin,
Or beef, he only asked plinty.
Barley bonnag was harder than loaf to chow,
An’ clap-cake took mortal chaps to soffen.
But to him the differing in mates wasn’t much
The diff’rance boys is ‘twixt somethin’ an’ nothin’.
But the Melliah was a day of unfain’d cheer;
Ther’ was plenty as well as choice,
Why the broth itself from far and near
Brought praises like a single voice.
That broth was broth now! cooks take a hint,
A hundred gallons, there’d be no less;
From beef, and mutton, and barley, no stint,
And a ham or two, all of the bes’.
Of the bes’, ay lad, in that mighty pot,
How fat was the bubble, and glug!
Where the big, heavy, lazy waves showed a lot;
Why their names would tickle yer lug.
Apple dumplins like perkhans went rowlin about,
Playin’ hiden go seek with the hams;
While a shower of greens and barley showed out
Through the waves like a silver strand.
But enough! we all know an’ no mistake,
That nothin was ever left wantin at dinner;
From the steamin white spuds to the crowning plate;
“Rice puddin and currans in her.”
Ask farmers how the last dish always proved
A reminder of the Melliah like a charm;
Why, in this field or that wherever you moved,
Ay for weeks all over the farm!
Well, few words are best at dinner time;
We sup, an’ ate, an’ are filled,
No speeches — no bosh — and no bad wine,
No spirits by the d———l distilled.
The old lot done an’ adjourned to the loft;
A hobblin’ stream of little ones follow,
Such brown little faces, an’ eyes so soft!
Little youngsters soon fill every hollow,
With mirthful eyes but respectful looks,
They answer their master and mistress’s queeries,
How Kitty is’nt here, or Billy is took
Very bad indeed with the measles.
They talk quietly and low when master is by;
And they worship the mistress whatever she says;
They are taught at school the reason why
Masters feel kindly for their little ways.
Heaven bless their natural and lovely trust,
How well I know their faith was returned!
In those days capital nor labour wished,
Nor had no demagogues in hell should be burned.
No stupid traversing of nature’s laws,
Teaching no man should follow after;
That Jack although good wages he draws,
Is as good or better than his master!
TO THE LOFT.
In harvis the storker was lob-lolly-bhoy —
He watered the cows and cut the fitches,
Drove pigs to the stubble in Machenthreigh,
Or in Dhremeshuggle he cleaned the ditches.
If the colts took the dog mill-road like streevaughs
Or poor blind Fanny down the Ochthaugh fall,
Or sheep fell over the brews at the Reelthaughs,
The storker was to blame — he must right it all.
So this jicker-about was expected to hice
High up on a powl by twelve o’clock,
The Melliah-day colour, without device
A couple of brats or bit of a frock,
And p’raps tacked to was a long cravat,
A rale big red one, borrowed from Mat.
This from the top of a thirty-feet powl
Stuck fast in the hedge at the Lherghy top,
Both far and near the Melliah-day towl,
From Cronk-a-voulan to Penny-pot:
But the Crennels got a wef and on Shallag brews
They ran and capered like hop-the-naa,
Giving bhoys a sign, better telling the news
Than flag on Cronk-e-neeri laa.
Bowl flag is thrue flung welcome right
To mortal lots from lef to right,
From the ling in Craansthal edge of the Ayre,
Right over to Jurby and even Lezayre.
“But nearer Creggans,” as some people think,
“May have hedgehogs very likely” ses Christian Lewaigue
There may be a very stout bhoy at Ballachrink,
Or stouter still at Ballayonague.
If Maggie thought that, Maary thought this,
And the great big harvest moon laughed in his sleeve
And Cannan was singing of a “wrinkle in her twiss,”
To a lot an the laver without their leave.
Then a game “but-thurran” was suddenly started,
And away they flew among the stacks,
Girls one way bound, bhoys after darted –
The catching always ended in smacks.
But many a multhag, collane, callour,
That night came to grief as round she wheels,
For soghane was set like a loob with power
To send them rolling head over heels.
Not for gels alone did the Dug and Tommy
Tighten their rope as their victims passed,
But tripped up the biggest like Willie and Johnnie,
Who thought their very prinjaigs were lost,
They fell with a glunkse enough to bust,
But up with a sprhet and away like the dust.
Never dhramen the cause, unless a bogane,
But all they said was “D———n the soghane!”
Who will ever forget this glorious fun
Who has seen it played in the moon’s full face,
With gels fit to wrestle, or jump, or run,
Nineteen in a score of the human race!
See a clerk or doctor on a visit this day
Join heartily the game (they were bachelors sure)
Seize hold by the waist to catch Annie Ray
Me-yee-kin-flump he’d go to the floor.
One vigorous grip from Annie’s red arms
The poor toot doesn’t understand at all –
She seems to scatter him like chaff in the barns,
Clean out of her way like nothin’ at all.
But now for the barn bhoys, let’s come on,
Lis’n now! be gough there’s a clar’net theer,
There’s no batin’ Dawsey — he’s music to the bone,
And he’s left Ballyaugie to play for us here.
The barn was theere I tell you thoh
With lamps and candles plenty boh,
The candles stuck with grace, be gough,
To morthar wall;
With furrums round and plenty jough
Like baron’s hall.
Greigh vannaugh man! O goch anye!
Theer’s scores of peeble! Shee tha vie!
“Oh no a’ll not,” said Kerry shy,
“Go in at all;
Jus-loog-on-me-close! am like to cry!
For, faith, I came to dance or thry,
But this bates all!”
Where furrums failed and stools were short
Full sacks of whate made good support,
But straw house end saw mighty sport
Among the brock.
Not candle there of any sort,
But sounds like “Lave me,” “Grei yee ort,”
“Don’t tear me frock.”
Now Dawsey’s pipe was not alone,
Old Collin’s fiddle swelled the tone,
And dancin’ now in form begun.
The Mistress came.
With grace she made them feel at home,
And lightly stepped with Jem alone
The dance we’ll name.
That swivvle hornpipe — Manx was named.
The “jig” and far away was famed
To Edinburgh’s flowers framed,
It went like smook.
Clane dancin’ off yer han it claimed
Not puzzled look.
No bhoy bough hobbles at the sides
Nor sthroogin’ out of tune in slides
With ugly sprehts and shame besides,
At being wrong,
Like in quadrilles each man betides
But hit the floor with heel and toe,
Till heaven help the boards below,
And suit yourself you come or go
To music’s time.
Not bob about like diddle doe
Nor sense nor rhyme.
And see the gells, these sthrippers rare,
No blanket trains to thrip you there,
But ankles clane and calf near bare
They foot it lightly.
Why shut their legs or arms from air!
They argue rightly.
The fun was now diversified,
As Nannie from the door we spied,
Limping up soghane betied
She thus went past me,
Flooring a clout she jumped aside,
Took fright, and sang, or rather cried
Keerie fu Snaighthee.
Then jig on jig and reel on reel
Followed each quickly heel to heel.
Sweat must flow unless by steel
The springin’s done.
But shirts are damp, and sthrippers feel
Wet to the bone.
The fiddlers barely get their breath
When music’s loudly called for Baith,
And there he is as sure as death
With kick and prance.
Low on the floor doin’ well my faith
The owl Frog dance.
Then reel on reel and jig on jig
Away they went again full rig,
With jough and fiddles, who cares a fig
Leave afterclaps to common prig
Who looks for sorrow.
But time will go and fun to boot,
And Melliahs end and follow suit,
This night wound up with good salute
“Hip, hip, hooray.”
These were the days of Gobnasehute
And hop tua naa.
Away, alone, apart and sad
The “Master” mused: How could it be
All ranks beneath him pleasures had,
And all, he thought, have joy but me.
He wandered lone by moonlit path,
Ambition oft his guide as now
Would lead his steps to dear Kinlough
To view the sea from grassy brow.
His pictured home was nestled there,
On soil his own by noble right.
He saw his farm and buildings fair,
All reared by strong and honest fight.
Thus musing gazed he at the sea,
Sweet murmurs ever soothing power,
When, lo, he heard — but, could it be
A song at this, the midnight hour?
From deep Glewnundtha mournful strain
Came trembling soft, then weird and wild
Then song was hushed in sweet refrain
Like lullaby for sweetest child.
THE MOTHER’S LAMENT.
Noble son, O cease thy toiling,
Hear a spirit mother’s prayer,
Earth thy purest soul is soiling,
Seek not joy, it is not there.
Man in thought while boy in stature
Storms thy very cradle rock’d,
Storms e’en fierce to rugged nature,
Yet thou faced them all unshock’d.
Well thou’st borne the heavy burthen,
Braving fiercest solar ray,
Go not further, all is earthen,
All is sorrow, all decay.
See this earth thy foot is treading,
Noble deeds have made it thine.
Tremble not, but earth is spreading,
Sorrows with thy life to twine.
Sons about thee now seem gladness,
Dearest hopes they are to thee,
Yet by them will first come sadness,
Bitter fate thy lot to be!
Friends will die whom thou art trusting,
Friends still living hollow prove,
Rotten hearts and friendships rusting
Quit the sight for things above!
Doubt me? No, I see thee bending
Proudest head on manly breast.
Even now thy soul is rending!
Fain I’d spare my son the rest.
Yet my heavy spirit-mission
Comes from far and fairer lands,
Brooks not feeling or omission
Bring I’t yet with tender hands!
Other hands, oh hands how ruthless
See I raising this your home!
Ugly nightmare — heart so truthless!
See him tear it stone from stone!
Oh, earth — cold earth, what has man in thee
Short life — all strife. Come, my son, to me I
Now my heavy task is done,
Oh I hate my very shade!
Prophecy damnation made!
Oh my gentle, ruined son.
Dismayed, confounded, sore distressed,
The “Master” thus heard mother’s voice,
But quick upon the sound he pressed,
Remembering only earthly choice,
He flung his arms to embrace that form,
As stately stood she tall and fair,
His arms were met by prickly thorn,
From neath the thorn there limped a hare.
ST. ANDREW’S FEAST.
I dare say many of my Scotch friends, if they every hear about this scribble, — much more if they ever deign to read it through, — will at once conclude it is the evil production of an enemy to their nationality. That conclusion would be the greatest of errors. So far to the contrary is the fact, that I dare assert there are very few, if, indeed, one man, belonging to the Barrow St. Andrew’s Club, who loves Scotland, her poets, her songs, her men, and, indeed, her very tongue, wherever met, as much as I do. I have many reasons of the strongest nature, besides its being the land of my forefathers, to feel deeply interested in and deeply attached, as I certainly am, to Scotland.
But I have often felt and observed that in some hands, both on Scottish soil itself and over the Border, and over the seas thousands of miles, this pride of nationality becomes sometimes an absurdity. We all have our own ideas on these matters; and if I appear to make one unfeeling comment on Scotland’s manners or men, it is meant as my small protest against — not Scotland or the Scotch, — but against the means and manner adopted in displaying this nationality before an English or other alien audience.
Another matter also suggested a skit of some kind to the writer’s mind many times during several years: It is the seemingly absurd choice of St. Andrew’s day at all as the day for Scots to celebrate. Why have they to leave their own shores even for a saint (if that is the only fit theme for such a day), and go all the way to Galilee and Greece to claim a patron who, they even confess themselves, never heard of Scotland? Why leave their own shores — in the past so rich in matter and men: their own saints, their own heroes! Why, indeed, turn away from their own most divine and immortal minstrelsy, or rapturous poet’s song, to grope for other saints in other lands!
Finally, ‘the last straw,’ in the matter of patience, was administered by a speaker at last year’s gathering, when he spoke of Scotland’s (if not all the world’s) greatest natural poet, Burns, as follows: — “Each and all, especially philosophers like Mill, Hume, Hamilton, and Reid, have spoken to the World’s intellect. Burns even with the ties that so strongly bind him to the Scottish nation,” &c., &c.
After that I ask any Scotchman to read my “St. Andrew’s Feast” as such sentiments might appear to a keen admirer of Burn’s genius at their table.
A gentleman, reputed to have made the best speech on the subject of St. Andrew, said in 1882: “St. Andrew was born at Bethsaida in Galilee (cries of “Oh! oh!” and laughter). St. Andrew was the first disciple of Christ, was an Apostle, . . . . and died a martyr. They knew that he never heard even of Scotland.”
In 1883, a prominent member of the Club said, among other things, that as regarded St. Andrew, he verily believed the good Saint never saw Scotland in his life; but perhaps it was true, as he had heard related, that that Saint’s big toe got brought to Scotland by some travellers from Greece or somewhere. How he had become their Patron Saint he could not say, &c.
Altho’ y’re no frae ayont the Tweed,
(In this ye hae muckle to grieve at),
We Scots have met an we’re a’ agreed,
Ye may pass — come see us o’er the lave o’t.
Come see us sup the cock-a-leekie soup,
Invoking the great St. Andrew’s plaidie.
An’ to grace these routs ye may see us stoop
E’en to mingle wi’ such as ye be;
The feast of reason ye may na untherstan,
Sheep’s heid howsome’er ye can feast on,
An’ sit in a corner, while we who can,
Will cram wi’ fun the very least one.
Tho’ ye are na Scot, we will comfort ye a’,
An’ condole wi’ ye on’t like brothers;
There’s another thing ye’ll do unless ye fa’,
Ye shall drink t’ us wi’ Highland honors.
Sae come away wi’ ye.
Cock-a-leekie’s the thing! Come, pass your luggie,
It jaups a wee, and smells o’ the yaird;
But it soothes the stommick most wonderfully,
Wi’ th’ sma’est usquebae according to the caird.
Sheep’s heid, doo tairt, and caller-oo;
“Unco caller,” says the Croupier, “they are an’ guid;”
“I like it all,” says the guest, “but the ‘oo,
This beastly ‘oo on the good sheep’s heid;
Can you swallow this hair in that land of the North?
It rasps on my tongue, I will be sworn!
I’m wishful to be pleasant, but this will be forth!
Excuse my passing it, for something shorn.”
“Silence, ye feeders! your tatties ‘ll no cool,
While I read this wire frae Liverpool.
The Earl o’ Galloway sends his greeting —
He is weel aware what ye’re saying and eating!”
“Save the eating, anyhow,” thought our guest,
“There must be things more glorious to follow.
His lordship’s greetin’s understood best
By festive Scots — we southrons are hollow:”
Hollow in a sense we begin this feed,
Hollow poor men we are when it’s ended;
But (barring the sight of the sheep’s inside)
We tasted and tried as loudly ‘commended.
“But haggis! ye gods,” cried a guest at its sight
As painch tripe o’ thairm, this Scottish delight,
Came steaming in skin all hillocks and hollows;
“Before I eat guts, I go to the gallows!”
Poor ignorant southron why be sae near killed,
‘Tis only sheep’s stommick clean’d oot and refilled!
“Now pass ye the stowp, freins,” says ‘vivial chair,
“Ay, pass ye the stowp!” says willing croupier,
“The king that we’ll toast is Scotch king indeed,
‘Tis he who last falls in whiskey sense deid.
Therefore,” says Chairman, “we Scots are all heedless,
An’ of kings or of princes our country is needless;
Although good Victoria, we all, ye ken, bless her,
Because she goes North each year for refresher.
Come, let us hale fellows sae gleefully met,
Toast noble St. Andrew — the toast of the day!
A speech I will mak’ an’ reason try get
Really why this good Saint’s oor particular fay.
Weel, craving indulgence for sma’ erudition,
I believe this St. Andrew’s a nursery story.
In Galillee, surely, the Saunt had his mission,
But o’ Scotland puir Andra’ neer sechted its glory!
A legend I ken, the most like authentic,
Says deid old Saunt Andra’s big toe sent by mail
Gat left in the post at Dundee till it stink’t,
And then got thrown out in the yaird among kail.
Why ever sent thither no record recorded,
But this is vouchsafed to Scotchmen to know:
That under this kail, it such richness afforded,
That lang kail in Scotland will evermore grow!
Now, surely oor prood Scottish hearts may expand
O’er theme sae romantic, ‘sociations sae grand!
This, surely, it must be that fills to the rim
Every true-hearted Scotchman with courage so grim;
That, fechting or arguing, but arguing chiefly
Makes him victorious, howsoever unbriefly,
Unbriefly’s a word coined specially quite
To express what a Scotchman e’er claims as his right,
Namely — sentence of length, therefore strength with the slur-r-r,
And proud finish up of our national burr.
Tae be Scotch (verbum sap) ye maun be addicted
Tae r-r-roll out a blunt thing, and ne’er be ‘convicted,’
Argue wi’ everyone, contradict where ye can,
Talk only o’ Scotland, an’ then y’re a man!
“Open wide is ma’ mind to conviction” e’er stick tae,
But show me the man, who e’er can convect me!
Sae drink Scots tae Saint Andrew!”
A gentleman from Dundee (teacher at the Higher Grade School, Barrow), here proposed
“THE LAND O’ CAKES.”
Among other things, he said: “There are, I am glad to say, very few indeed from the little country lying beyond the Tweed who are devoid of the pride of being Scotchmen. If we were disposed to forget our little land we should be continually reminded of it in the good-natured banter that we meet with in the society in which we now move. … But, for all that, we carry about with us the consciousness of our nationality, and we can show it in meetings like the present. … But even these show that they are Scotch. There is in them that opinion-ativeness, that dogmatism, which is the intellectual peculiarity of all Scotchmen. There is something in Scotch character, breathed into the very soul — something ineradicable — which will persistently show itself. Penetrate into the heart of hearts of even the most callous Scotchman, and you will find there enshrined some regard for the little land beyond the Tweed. With warm hearts, with this intense earnestness, with this strong natural characteristic rampant, we meet together proud of our little land, and feeling powerfully that our individuality will never be merged into the unity of Great Britain. … We must look back to the past history of our little rock-girt land — that history telling of struggles for liberty of action, liberty of thought . . those Edward wars, when the “southron” tried to trample out the spirit of the Scottish people by grinding oppression, were in self-defence, and you know the glorious result. The struggles against Episcopacy, in the times of the Charleses, were in defence of what was most sacred to man — liberty of conscience. . . . I will not even try to argue that the best of our poets and literary men, our politicians and philosophers, our scientists and artists, are to be set on quite the same platform as the sons of the great England; but I do, with all seriousness, affirm that considering the smallness of Scotland, and the comparative lateness of her development, that there is no small proportion of great men among her sons. . . . Each and all, especially philosophers like Mill, Hume, Hamilton, and Reid have spoken to the world’s intellect — Burns, even, with the ties that so strongly bind him to the Scottish nation, has made the world throb under the spell of genius, &c, &c.
The land o’ cakes. — Mr. Chairman &c, &c,
I rise in my specs, fresh frae the noble north,
To speak to the cakes an’ the lan’ aboot the Forth,
But sirs need we glasses to view oor land the necht,
As much indeed’s I need them to aid my common secht.
Rudimental mathematics are sae aft my slashing sword,
Ta prove a proposition on a certain grimy board,
That should I in my lore evolve a proposition,
Or quote from primer latin a measure or tradition,
Be good enough to pass it by, what you cannot understand.
Then to-morrow ye may spell it out wi’ lexicon in hand.
Now Quod erat demonstrandum is a simple thing indeed,
‘Tis but to prove that Scotland is of Christendom the heid.
That humanity is brainless where’er the Scotch are wanting,
And all things said without the bur-r-r is miserable canting,
Best adjectives and adverbs in best o’ English grammar
Were framed, as primers have it to qualify Scotch manner,
E’en pons Asinorum in England scrambled o’er,
Is simply done to grapple with one Scottish glory more,
And reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, three R’s as taught by me,
In time will raise e’en England to th’ level o’ Dundee.
We teach opinionativeness, we’re dogmatic to the bone,
Intellectual distinctiveness we have by this alone.
(Hear! hear! h’sh, order)
We fought the sottish Englishmen, who ate our beef and bread;
We supped o’ meal, slept on wet moors, wi haggis under heid.
All this we did at Bannockburn, and in every other feight.
I’m here to argue the point wi’ ye, wi’ ony man this necht.
To think we are sae glorious, in this wee speck o’ lan’,
This we bit little farl o’ cake, ye might haud it in y’r han’.
We foucht thus, and fed thus, and all we wanted given
Was liberty to argue our Scottish way to heaven!
In learning and in culture, Scotch names are hundreds strong;
But, modesty is also Scotch; I pass with them to song.
In song we rival Italy, indeed, we hold by turns
The palm wi her in minstrelsy; and e’en in humble Burns
We claim a clever ploughboy: of course we pity him!
As being — ah, well, you know — a truant sort of limb.
He wanted “Fill ’em up again“* to dog his vagrant turns.
Now with the board and higher grade; how prood we’d been o’ Burns!
With us — the learned — the bard is called of vulgar Scots, the choice.
We ne’er can pass a period to hear e’en angel’s voice —
(Kicking of bottles under tables, and other applause).
Well, ending friens, as we began,
Hear, at least, my peroration,
Hail, land o’ Cakes! We drain the can
To thy wee, wee Scotch everlastification!
(Wavering highland honours),
* [A nickname for the Clerk to the School Board.]
This speaker made a very severe attack in not the best chosen language upon the Press — particularly laying stress on the fact that the reporters who came there rendered loyal Scotchmen’s speeches in the papers in English and not, as they ought to be, in real broad Scotch as given.
The impossibility of making shorthand notes of such speeches by anything but a born, bred, living in now, and meaning to die in Scotland, was then graphically exemplified by the speaker giving in the most impossible breadth of Scotch and Gaelic mixed, the remainder of his own address — a remainder, I verily believe, wherein he was hardly followed by a single one in the audience, if, indeed, he fully knew himself what it all meant. The speech was not well chosen, nor was it well received by anyone: Ominous silence, followed by great uneasiness, being the only effect.
Misthere Chairman an’ croopeer,
Recht glad we maun be tae be here,
An’ siccan welcome, siccan cheer;
I’ll prove wi’ yardstick straughtness clear.
An’ weel I may.
It’s only Scoteland, Scotia dear,
That keeps this day.
We’ve heard frae gifted lips the cause
Why Scoteland ance a year mak’s pause,
An’ shunning English cooking laws
Sits doon an’ weel her stommick staws
Wi’ halesome haggis
That glorious saunt St. Andrew draws
All eyes upon us.
But to my task: I’m e’en recht fain
(An’ really hope I’m no’ mista’en)
That I am waled this year again
To toast they printers, o’ a’ we’re say’n’,
These paper bodies.
I wish them weel in a’ they’ve ta’en;
It may digest, for a’ it’s gi’en.
Their feed o’ haggis.
Now while I’m here-r-r I chose this time
Tae say I’ve thocht at times sin syne
The Press mecht pay at least for wine
In their reporting,
By spelling Scotch oot line for line
For wha can thole a blethering blellum,
Scampering here to fill his “swellum,”
Then, staggering hame, consulting vellum,
To maim and botch
Our speeches — using English spellin’
Instead o’ Scotch?
Doch-en-doris, then, to printers’ deevils.
Their spleuchans reekin’ wi’ English evils,
Their pens are naething but teeth o’ weevils
Amang oor cakes,
I weel could see us rid these peerils
For a’ oor sakes.
(General interruption — several Scots going home.)
The Press respond —
A printer here to his legs he flew
And forth from its scabbard a rapier drew,
And making it whistle through the air — whe-ew,
He clove the little speaker’s head right in two!
Shiv’ring his spine.
With his yardstick Saundy beat a wild tatoo
In defence all the time.
“THE LAND WE LIVE IN.”
The proposer of this toast, annually a voluble speaker to the innumerable excellencies of Scotland, began and finished a speech on this toast in such a very painfully laboured style that a flow of perspiration was inevitably and copiously induced to the most inattentive hearer of this exceedingly heavy, up-hill, not to say dry effort. The speech was most amusingly helped out, as to length, by a repetition of the painful subject, “The Land we Live in.” Having really nothing whatever he could say, by hook or by crook, well or ill, of England, saving a quotation of two lines, he plodded on, finishing almost every sentence of a most sententious speech with “The Land we Live in.” He did finish at last by saying humourously that “Perhaps the best way out of the difficulty was to drink to the toast, “The Land we
The papers here say, “Cheers and laughter.”
An Englishman responded, from whom we expected something really good; but, perhaps on account of his having been suddenly called upon, he began and ended without gratifying us one bit.
The same heavy toil seemed to bedew his good-humoured face, and he, too, had to take refuge from failing to say anything in repeating with weighty accent, “The Land we Live in.” Why, the very English dust seemed to rise from our English boots and verily tickled our English noses; so that, though we seemed to have tears, — and well we might, — we only sneezed for that land, that dry land, “The land we live in!”
THE LAND WE LIVE IN.
The land we live in ‘s now the toast;
I propose the same — but cannot boast
That I have anything, almost,
To say of her,
A land of beefsteak boiled and roast,
Well, this land we live in, — yes, let’s see,
This land, — let’s see — that we — that we,—
Oh, yes! live in, is not far frae thee,
Thou bonnie North!
For this poor England our sympathy
Wi’ thee’s brought forth.
Responded to by a portly Englishman: —
The land we live in, ah! yes, to be sure,
There is such a place, howe’er so poor.
I never even thought of this before —
This land we live in!
I’m highly honoured though; I feel quite
To converge on her the bright lines of my lore —
The land we live in!
Now, this land we live in is not a square,
It is neither a circle nor hemisphere,
It is covered all over with atmosphere,
And to us ’tis given
To breathe this air and be thankful here —
Scotch air, like their parritch, is far too rare.
It’s too near heaven,
The briny tears shed here this night
By myself and many another wight
That we e’er were born in such miserable plight,
As not to be Scotch,
Do very well show we appreciate the weight
And charge Dame Nature direct with the slight
Of such a botch!
But, the land we live in, that’s my toast,
“Why, the land we live in’s an Englishman’s boast!
There is — why, certainly we have a coast
Of rocks all around;
Oh, no! there’s Walney! I’ve travelled there most.
Most certainly at the end where the seabirds roost
There’s a lot of sand!!
Song, “Rule Brittania,” with Highland honours.
This climax reached, my heart was full,
I felt my mind was sluggish, dull,
The wit would not get into my skull —
I sank in my chair.
I last remember a sneeshan mull,
And then a soft and heavenly lull
Was reigning there,
And whether the above was in ’82, or mixed, or in 83.
The speakers can tell from their manuscripts — I know it is far past me.
BATTLE OF TEB.
Soft sighed the breeze o’er Arab plain;
In purple West had sunk the sun;
Our daring scout had drawn his rein;
The Arab hushed his random gun.
Then Graham strode his tents among,
And spoke his warriors cheery word;
Full oft that voice made courage strong, —
Lent keener edge to willing sword.
Sleep now, our heroes! ah, soft sleep!
Why wrap so tenderly that youthful face?
Oh, why the mighty hush so deep,
All ignorant of morrow’s race?
The morn was come for grizzly fight,
When blood must wash out word defeat!
Let courtiers say the cause is right —
The soldier’s cause is no retreat!
To bugle note each man erect;
The charger neighed and paw’d the ground,
His trembling flanks full surely meant
He smelt the fight ere yet was sound.
Then steady tramp four thousand men
In square, like solid masonry.
Bravo hearts! each hopes come back again.
We still have martial chivalry!
They tramp to meet ten thousand men:
Men flushed with treble victory;
Men brave as lions in their den,,
E’en courting death for history.
With Baker’s Krupps so easy won
At former Teb from Pharaoh’s host,
The Tokar gunners soon make known
Their good intent to our cost.
But silent, stubborn, plodding on,
The British column heeds not.
Fell from our ranks full many a man:
But word “Be steady,” needs not.
At last this torment meets a check,
Our guns made their’s quietus.
Then yelled the Arabs and attack,
They swarmed the field to meet us.
In thousands rushed they like a flood,
But one there could not pass;
O Martini, thy fame has stood!
They fell like smitten grass!
Crash! went the deadly rifle stream!
Thundered the loud artillery;
Crash! upon crash! with lightning’s gleam;
From Gatling’s dread machinery!
Storm that of lead with British aim,
Made light of charmed life,
And prophets rolled and bit the plain,
Sure victims in the strife.
One moment staggered Osman’s men,
But not a savage fled.
Brave Burnaby and Baker then
Right into trenches led.
First on the ridge with brawny arm
The Colonel flourished sword;
“Our Queen!” he cried; the word was charm,
They follow quick as word.
With British cheer, bright bayonets flash,
A serried wall of steel.
Once more “hurrah!” and in they dash —
The “cold” then Arabs feel.
Wild yells the savage brave as they —
Then onsets hand to hand —
Meet spear and bayonet — deadly fray,
For life or death they stand.
But inch by inch brave Arabs yield; —
Not inches falling back, —
But every hero stuck afield,
Made room for new attack.
Thus carved our gallant infantry;
Each step a man withstood,
Each step received a human life,
Each step was steep’d in blood.
Then charged our mighty cavalry,
Like whirlwind raked them through.
They turned and galloped through again.
Defeat no Arab knew.
Each charge saw rebels plenty slain,
But never changed the living;
E’en fallen creatures rose again,
A dying thrust thus giving.
And yet third time our troopers crushed
Right through this desp’rate host;
But, tiger-like, the savage rushed
Where danger offered most.
At last the Wells of Teb are gained;
Brave Graham sounded “Halt!”
Two thousand Arabs’ blood has stained
The field of this assault.
HAVING READ FORSTER ON PARNELL.
Tell me not of England’s glory
(Shade now hunted from the land);
Rather read her ghastly story —
“Rads” and treason hand-in-hand!
Nay, nor stop at temp’ral treason,
Rather trace the ugly road
Straight through dirt (which some call reason),
Discrediting both Queen and God!
Seek, but find not, now the noble,
Daring, loyal, princely-bred,
Throttles treason in his cradle,
Daring crush his ugly head.
Now we talk of ‘distribution —
Wealth belongs us equal, all;
Bank, a costly institution;
King or Prince, a whited wall.
Working Man our only glory: —
See this angel trodden, gored,
Sacrificed by wicked Tory –
Birmingham supplies the word.
Joey screws is making nightly
(Such was always Joey’s trade) —
Screws to close the coffin tightly,
Shell for kings or monarchs made.
Let us rule — us working men!
Have all equal in all things —
Parnell sweet and Chamberlain,
Also equal! — then our kings!
“The “Melliah” remains fresh with perennial truth, a genuine human document” [The Manx Sun, 5 Nov 1898]
George Quarrie’s Manx dialect poem describing a Melliah at Bride in the 1850s is an important work in both the social and literary history of the Isle of Man.
The poem was written by a teenage Quarrie in the 1850s after his first-hand enjoyment of a Melliah (the traditional Manx celebration of the end of the harvest). Upon its publication in the 1880s, contemporary reviewers remarked that the poem “pulses with reality and humour and a hearty enjoyment of life,” and it soon came to stand as an important record of Manx customs from that period, as well as being a well-loved poem.
Some thirty years after he had initially written it, Quarrie happened upon the poem again and thought to have some copies printed to give to friends and relatives. One of these 1880 copies found its way to T. E. Brown, who then struck up a friendship with Quarrie and it was he who introduced Quarrie to the works of Hall Caine and, more importantly, Hall Caine to Quarrie’s poem.
It was two or so years after Hall Caine’s The Manxman was first published in 1894 that Quarrie picked up the novel and discovered that a great deal of his own poem appeared in various forms within the novel. Quarrie wrote to Caine directly but received no response and so he published a letter in the Manx Sun newspaper, listing in great detail no less than 65 instances of plagiarism. One happy consequence of this unfortunate episode was that his poem was republished, thus ensuring that The Melliah gained the attention it deserved and was able to make its mark in Manx literature.
The 1880 edition of The Melliah which appears here also features three other poems which are of a very different type. Ranging from the mocking of Scottish nationalism to a celebration of British Colonial battles, these additional poems offer a curious and more rounded view of this important figure in Manx literary history.
George Quarrie was born and raised in Bride in the 1840s and it was of his memories from this period that he wrote until his death in New York at the age of 80 in 1926.