The Banff and Buchan Collection

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Tape 1994.006 transcription

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[Ceilidh music.]

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the club, I'd like to thank Mr Taylor for addressing the haggis, Mr Thompson for saying the Grace, Mr Burnie and all his party for the entertainment.


I would just like to say a word and a. What about a thank you for Daisy, and een or twa mair folk at's jist helped us get on the road.


Finally I would like to say happy birthday to Mrs Robertson.

[Applause.] All sing happy birthday.

Music and singing 'Auld Lang Syne'

05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10
Music and singing [Gap in tape.]


[TM] Well, so this is the demise of the craftie?

[WM] Yes

[TM] Alright.

[WM] Are we ready?

[TM] Yes

[WM] There's fairm toons in Buchan baith big aye and sma
And crafties wi eens hid but noo they're awa
Laid te til anither, a bigger tae mak
But lord ye feel sad fan ye stop and think back

The craftie lies idle, the hoosie stands steen
Nae sign o the life that there eens would hae been
Nae bairnies tae squallach a roon the rock foon
Or play hide and sik by the licht o the moon

O the craftie it eens wis a place o desire
For young fairmers tae start, aye, and aul eens retire
But noo fan aul mains turns o'er his last sod
Up gangs a new hoose at the end o the road

The craftie lies idle, the hoosie stands steen
Nae sign o the life that there eens would hae been
Nae bairnies tae squallach a roon the rock foon
Or play hide and sik by the licht o the moon

Noo the wee place that eens wis the hairt o the land
Far ever wid mains gid the guid o the man
A kitchie deem strapper or loon for the ploo
Far the deal wid ye get them, can ye lookit up noo

The craftie lies idle, the hoosie stands steen
Nae sign o the life that there eens would hae been
Nae bairnies tae squallach a roon the rock foon
Or play hide and sik by the licht o the moon

Oor countryside's puirer for passin o time
Progress I blame for the crafter's decline
For it's off to the cities and toons for to see
A means tell an end for the living take

Noo the craftie lies idle, the hoosie stands steen
Nae sign o the life that there eens would hae been
Nae bairnies tae squallach a roon the rock foon
Or play hide and sik by the licht o the moon

Oh, it's ghostly aye eerie fen daylicht runs oot
Nae licht in the windae, the caundle's ging oot
Nae fire in the ingle, nae beast in the sta
The riggin's fa'n intae the crack o the wa
Oh the hale thing's run doon, o the craftie's awa

[TM] That's great, when did you make that poem.

[WM] Well, aboot a month afore I sung it at the meeting.

[TM] Sometime in October.

[WM] Aye, mebbe, ye see this is something I mebbe started a few wiks afore at, cause I've been gan up and doon the road fae here tae the work. Ma wife takes the car doon and I walk too for ma circulation. And I'll be takin doon the roads, sorta thinkin aboot something, and getting anither line, and getting anither line.

[TM] So it sort of builds like that.

[WM] Aye, but eh, I woulda had it actually made up aboot a month afore at. But then ye spend days and en, this word would be better here, you've sae mony changes ye can mak.

[TM] So did you write it down as you made it?

[WM] Eh...I think I sorta wrote it doon verse by verse jist as it, jist as it come tae me. In fact…. it's affa difficult tae say how it come aboot ken.

[TM] Yes, did you, when you stepped out in the morning for your walk did you think I'm going to work on that verse today?

[WM] Oh aye, yes, aye. For quite a while, and then jist micht a gen up the road twa, three days and never come up wi nithin, nae that would fit. You've got to get a subject and you've got to get a tune, ken? And then you jist…

[TM] Did you start with the subject and then go from there or?

[WM] I started with the subject first I would say. Wi a couple, oh I suppose it started wi a couple of lines really, and then you've tae get this couple of lines into a known tune. And eh, jist grew fae there like. That wis mebbe the first, I never even dreamt aboot it afore like.

[TM] That's the very first one you've every made.

[WM] Oh aye.

[TM] Have you sung traditional songs for a while, because you obviously know traditional tunes.

[WM] I've sung some like, but nae a lot. I mean, I've sung a my days, I used tae ging aboot singin and whistlin a day.

[TM] What sort of songs did you sing.

[WM] Ah well, it sorta wis, it sorta wis the sangs o the day fen I wis a kind o a teenager I suppose ken. I mean I've forgotten them a noo. But one o the things at I'll sing maist o a is gan back a bit. Tae fit I heard in the early years, at's fit I like tae hear.

[TM] Is that a book in which you kept songs over the year.

[WM] This is my eldest sister's book actually.

[TM] That's lovely, a little 5x7 book.

[WM] She's been dead oh,...about thirty year I suppose.

[TM] Oh that was your sister that you said was recorded.

[WM] Yes, aye.

[TM] Was it Kenny Goldstein?

[WM] Kenny Goldstein, oh he just aboot bade at back o the door ken?

[TM] So did you learn some of the songs from that book.

[WM] Well, yes,… ye've, is is the sort o ma memory like. [Looks through book.]

[TM] Sally Gardens.

[WM] There's nae mony o this eens, actually there's nae mony o this eens that I ken the tune till.

[TM] Where did she get the songs?

[WM] I think she mebbe hid some of ma grandfather's songs, ken? Aye, nae that I ever heard him singin, the only heard sang that I ever heard ma grandfather singin wis the 'Wee Cooper of Fife', and I can min at fen I wis jist a wee toddler.

[TM] Do you remember how it goes?

[WM] No, nae, na. Bogie's Bonnie Belle, at's in ere. At's the cornkister's time, Strathardle's in ere. Canna see the een that I'm lookin for actually. Take a look through it.

[TM] Certainly heard the Dying Ploughboy. What's that one you've found.

[WM] Aye, this was een at I used tae hear ma faither singin bits o, The Fair Maid o Kenmore. Ken?

The lonely moors pale on the lovely Loch Tay,
thy shiel in my sentinel stands by the shore
The hills are asleep in the lade of Loch Tay
As I wait by your window, fair maid of Kenmore

Awaken my loved one, come wander with me
The joys that are passing will come never more
As the waters of Tay flow down to the sea
Loves pleasures are pleasing fair maid of Kenmore

At's the wey that at een goes like ken, it's een o ma favourites.

[TM] Would you sing the rest of it?

[WM] Aye, I'll sing it later on like, at jist gies ye an idea o the tune like ken. Anither favourite is 'Can I Sleep in your Barn'

[WM] But of course at's ……… hiv ye, hiv ye got hold of Robert Lovie?

[TM] Not yet, I haven't tracked him down, I now know where he works, so I might track him down.

[WM] I think he's bidin up aboot Banff somewey.

[TM] That's right yes.

[WM] He'd hae a the cornkister stuff ye ken. (Looks through papers, books). There's a lot o them the same like ye ken. I just hung on to them. Bobby's Bonnie Belle.

[TM] Mm hm.

[WM] That's a good version of Bogie's Bonnie Belle as well.

[WM] Ma sister, ma sister wrote this een.

[TM] Oh she made that herself?

[WM] Aye, she made this een up hersel. One o her brithers wis foreman at a fairm up a road fae Auchtae?, aye this wis awa back durin the war ken.'s never ever been sung onywey like, as far as I ken.

[TM] Do you know how it goes.

[WM] Aye, well aye, if I thocht on the tune, aye. It's a common tune. [Hums to himself.] Na, I'll get intae it though. [Hums to himself.]

[TM] Same kind as Nicky Tams.

[WM] Mm hm.

[TM] Can you sing it.

[WM] I'll have tae ging ower this een, a tar afore it .

They hiv a gey young foreman chiel, McKinnon is his name.
He files ca's the tractor fan the aul horse gings lame.

[WM] Aye, there's something wrang there…. [hums]. At's just the Moss of Burreldale. I'll just gie is een a wee think ower, till I get intae the tune. No, I hiv tae ging like is. [sings to self.] Here's me gan a tae pot. I'll get is eens a richt like.

Oh Mormond Hill his beauty and the braes o Gight are grand,
And in atween are acres o the finest growin land,
Well father's great-grandfather broke in fae hill and fun,
They drained bogs intae ditches aye and burns made tae run.

They'd big a wee clay hoosie and a steadin close at haun,
Sine they laid some cairt tracks doon so they could come and gang,
Oh pruned ey day, they'd be tae see o skelps o bonnie lan,
The effort o their workin life, the rigs that they began.

Oh it looks like we are oot o theet, aye we hae lost oor wey,
Some ither kind o life tae mak, they'd like us a tae try,
T'would mak ye staun and scratch yer heid to think o how or why,
Gan bey were in atween the stilts they'd find anither wey.

Oh the harra that we pulled the day is nae sey hard to try,
For the yoke wir great grandfather hid wis up hill a the wey,
O it's daen the day wi muckle ease there's nae sign o a theet,
It's worked noo wi a tractor aye and sittin on a seat.

But the horsie it is hard tae bad, it's manners yet to meet,
It's fine and licks among the grun, and swack among the feet,
Oh the tractor disnae answer yet, till high nor wish or woe,
And gen ye try it's very likely, ower the dyke ye'll go.

Oh it looks like we are oot o theet, aye we hae lost oor wey,
Some ither kind o life tae mak, they'd like us a tae try,
T'would mak ye staun and scratch yer heid to think o how or why,
Gan bey were in atween the stilts they'd find anither wey.

Now in come our burocrats tae tell we are wrang,
They'd pay us tae dae this or that, gang their wey we will gang,
They'd lay doon la's wid mak ye greet, their wey tae dae oor wark,
Like set aside or plantin trees or lochies in the park.

Now a hunner years will pass or mair, and we'll take twa steps back,
Fauns and breem and bracken and rainforest we will mak,
The burn will nae langer run wi tiles that winna dra,
For tree reets chokin up the drains that took the weet awa

Oh it looks like we are oot o theet, aye we hae lost oor wey,
Some ither kind o life tae mak, they'd like us a tae try,
T'would mak ye staun and scratch yer heid to think o how or why,
Gan bey were in atween the stilts they'd find anither wey.

The cairt tracks will be oot o sicht, aye they'll hae had their day,
And a that we'll be left wi will be spootie holes o clay,
Full cycle o the graund we're gaun, and I can see the day,
Gaen father's great grandfather can sit up I think he'd say,
Ye've left us in the pickle here for we're nae langer dry.

So gies a spad and fan heuk and we'll let ye see the wey,
Tae tak it back fae rouch graun, aye we'll hae anither try,
Aye, gies a spad and fan heuk and we'll be hame and dry,
Oh we'll darg and dale a ower again, we'll hae anither day.

[TM] What's a fan heuk. Don't know that word.

[WM] Well, in my case it's a figment o imagination, because we used tae tak fauns oot wi fit wis ca'd a copper's h, ye ken. But it's just a tool wi a blade that ye can cut the roots o fauns. Ye ken? So at's, really, at's, I couldnae get nithin else fit in. So I thought the fan heuk jist suited ye ken.

[TM] Did you use to work with horses yourself?

[WM] Oh aye, I think I worked the very last pair o workin horse in the area.

[TM] And where was that.

[WM] At wis at Sooth Reidbog, ma father's place, I wis brought up on a wee place ye ken. And I just hated the tractor when they come in, couldna speak till a tractor ye ken.

[TM] Couldn't hear yourself sing above the roar. [Laughs.]

[WM] Aye. Oh I jist hated the tractor.

[TM] I'm rather fond of horses myself.

[WM] I liked the beasts ken. Oh, no tractors. Ye jist got on and jist went as fast as you could ye ken. There wis nae pride left in it ye ken.

[TM] Just turned into straight work.

[WM] Aye. There wis nae, if ye'd the horse and ploo, ye hid it in yer haund and ken. And I dinna ken, it jist, it meant something till ye, it didn't mean nithin till me wi a tractor ava like ye ken. But at's, but if you can take at een oot till us, like at.

[TM] Should have it for.

[WM] Oh but there's nae hurry like.

[TM] Well. So did you start, did you start working with horses when you were a wee boy on the farm.

[WM] Aye, aye, jist wis brocht up with them like, brocht up wi the, brocht up with the sheep, the gun, the dog athing. The dog wis ma best freen. Latterly.

[TM] That wis a working dog?

[WM] Oh aye, we'd two working dogs, we'd a gun dog and a sheepdog. The gun dog lived till it was 21, and it finally had tae be put doon. Apparently he wis the same age as masel, for 21 year.

[TM] And what did you do with the gun dog?

[WM] Mm, now...well his purpose was catching vermin ken. The gun dog and the sheep dog used tae work. The sheep dog chased em tae the gun dog and he took athing ye see. And he cairried hame every kill, every kill at dog took he cairried hame.

[TM] Well trained.

[WM] Aye, he wis just a mongrel. He wisnae really a gun dog, really. He wis part terrier, part spaniel I think ken.

[TM] But he did the job.

[WM] Oh aye, couldna beat him like. He used to come oot, Donald Stewart the building contractor, at wis at the Brig o Don at at time used tae come oot fae Aiberdeen, and bring a the spivs o the day wi a the bra dogs ye ever sa, and away they went up on the hill for a shot. Ma father wis doin his auld mac ye see, and eh, it wisnae lang afore there wis a shout went up for 'Mac's mongrel!'. They'd lost something ye ken, jist pit a the fancy dogs to shame like. And if ye wis stakin onything ye ken, if ye went past a gap in the dyke and wis creepin, he wis comin ahin ye, he did the same, ye used to see him gan doon an a.

[TM] He knew what to do.

[WM] Oh he knew what to do like. But eh. I didnae really hae much time for the gun like, because, well ma father wid stop working ere I come up, and there wisnae the same time I used to go out mair or less, with the .22 wis my, used to go oot for roe deer, cause they were vermin till us bein aside ?? ye see, they jist come oot and they jist eat patches and patches o ?

[TM] So you had to keep them down?

[WM] Oh aye, they were jist vermin till us, but oh fine for the pot like.

[TM] So you did eat them.

[WM] Oh aye, they werenae wasted. We'd a lot o rabbits and hares that were wasted, cause there wis nae wey you could kill… I think there wis one year they kept coontin, I canna min if it wis seven or nine kills every day for a year, that that beast cairried hame. Kills o one kind or anither like ken.

[TM] That's a lot of vermin.

[WM] But och, they were jist meevin ken. There wis a certain distance doon fae the hill that the beasts wouldnae ging near if it wis a grass park, just cause it wis stinkin wi rabbits ken.

[TM] So they would just take over a field and the animals wouldn't go in. I hadn't realised that. So how old were you when you took over the work on the placie?

[WM] Well, ye left the school ye see, we left, ?? and I wis just awa fae the school at thirteen and I spent...officially it was fourteen ken. And I spent the first two year at hame and I wis two year in a cairrier's larry fae Langside. And then ma aulder brither wis getting mairried so I'd tae come hame again, anither three year afore the next brither wis comin up tae tak ma place, and then I gied awa tae jine up, just tae get awa fae fairm work. Laughs.

[TM] What year was that you joined up?

[WM] '51 or 2.

[TM] And you would have been how old then?

[WM] 21. Cause I wis deferred at the time I should hae gaen away, I was deferred,

[TM] Because you were on the farm

[WM] Because I wis on the fairm, aye, and then by the time I could gied awa I gied awa and jined up.

[TM] Where did they send you.

[WM] I was in Malaya for 10 month, I was only actually in the services 15 month, I got a discharge ken. I shouldna actually hae been in ava like. In my last year at the school I missed because I couldnae bike, owing till a, I suppose it was a rupture really, but it was rupture while I was an infant, aye, I was born wi a rupture, and it was natural spaces, it wisnae a rupture really, but they sewed up the spaces at wis ma problem as an infant. Then when I become 13 and did fit growin I did, these spaces didnae grow accordingly, that wis ma problem.

[TM] Did you, back on the farm, did your sister do a lot of work as well. She was older than you?

[WM] Oh aye, she wis 17 year aulder than me. She had a boy the same age as me, well he wis 2 month younger than me. I was an uncle at 2 months. Laughs. Aye.

[TM] What was her name again.

[WM] She was Jean.

[TM] Jean. And her married name was?

[WM] Mathew.

[TM] Jean Mathew. So there used to be a lot of singing around the house or?

[WM] Well nae really, but fit I min on, and I'm speakin when I wis at the school, one or two fairm servants mebbe hid a gramaphone, you'd hae a shot o it. We did hae a gramaphone at one time. And well, I suppose ye hailed a the records ye ever could afford of course and the flappy on the top of the old fashioned wind up gramaphone thing.

[TM] With the big horn.

[WM] No, no, no, the big horn wis oot ere at time like. But it wisnae ony, there wouldnae ony improvement till a big horn. No, no. But a lot of these sangs o mine, back then like, is, eh, Can I Sleep in Your Barn, and the Dyin Ranger, and a these eens o mine fae back then, jist before I gied tae school and shortly efter I gied tae school. Cause these records would have gaen roon twa three places ye see.

[TM] And maybe some of the cornkisters as well.

[WM] Aye, aye, there wis cornkisters on the go like, oh aye. But I was nivver ower struck on the cornkisters really.

[TM] And here you are composing them now.

[WM] I suppose, Charlie Birnie ca'd at een a ballad, I dinna ken fit ye ca it. No, no at wis jist chance at. But the second een wisnae chance, I set oot tae dae at. But the first een wis, jist pure chance.

[TM] Do you think you'll keep making songs

[WM] It's affa difficult getting a subject.

[TM] Well if something strikes you I suppose.

[WM] I'm toying with the demise of the meal mills ken.

[TM] Yes, I suppose there used to be one in every village.

[WM] Every area had its meal mill, and at wis far the fairmer got a his gossip ken. And of course it a finished up wi a fire in the kiln. Ken it wisnae worth startin them again. And of course there's nae girnels noo tae fill, cause there's nae folk on the fairms wi ken, usin fit we ca'd wir girnels is whit ye stored yer oatmeal in.

[TM] A big chest.

[WM] Aye

[TM] It must be oatmeal that they used.

[WM] Oh aye, it wis really meal, milk and tatties.

[TM] That's what you grew up on.

[WM] Oh aye, mair or less. I mean we were fortunate, plenty game. So I mean pheasant and things like at is nae a treat tae me. See folk cutting their left haun or richt haun off for a pheasant or a partridge or something like at, but nae me. Laughs. Aye.

[TM] So when did you stop the farming life.

[WM] Well, I come back oot o the services in '53...I worked a wee whilie at hame again but nae lang, and then I gaed intae forestry, that would hae been '54. That wis chance. I'd a brither workin in the forestry draggin trees and he got a leg broken while he wis draggin, well a tree jammed on a stump on a post, he lifted the tree ower the top o the stump and of course it broke his leg, made a right job o his leg like, jist. So I started draggin trees first, I wis wi the forestrey fower years ken, there aboot. Then I gied tae an egg gradin station, wis there aboot five year, wis there when I got married actually. Then I was in the coalery for six year. Jist seemed tae up a year. Then I wis in the ??? for seven year, General Motors for 8 and a half year, and I've been glazing spectacles noo for coming up eleven year.

[TM] Quite a few jobs.

[WM] But eh, oh I'd be lost on a fairm noo, clean lost.

[TM] I suppose so many changes.

[WM] I wouldnae ken far tae start. Ye never ken, mebbe the horse come back again.

[TM] Well maybe.

[WM] Well, it's mebbe nae sey far fetched as you would think. Machinery's gan tae oot-price itself.

[TM] That's true. You have to mortgage the house to buy the tractor in the first place.


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