The Banff and Buchan Collection

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Tape 1994.015 transcription

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[CB] That sound like it? Well, well. Right

[CB] The fairmer o yon muckle toon he is baith hard and sair
And the cauldest day that ever bla'd his servants get their share, eh?

[CB] Well, the theme of our presentation this afternoon around a bothy ballad. And the bothy ballad it we'll circle round today is Drumdelgie. Now we've already hin evidence of a fairmer being hard and sair.

[Audience] Hard up

[CB] Oh aye, if you say so, that was their plea, that they were aye hard up. Mm hm. Hard and sair. Ye ken the story o the fairmer, he sent the laddie awa tae pu neeps on a mornin something like is, a bittie frostie, and the fairmer he came stowfin ben the dreen, he seekin the ???? [demonstrates]. He says, 'Aye, laddie, neeps caul?' 'Oh aye, fairmer they're fairly caul'. But he says '??? ye didnae hud them ower lang'. [Laughs.]

[CB] Aye well, there's a fairmer up in Cairnie, up by Glass yonder, and of course Drumdelgie was a high lyin farm, awa up hills, affa brae set, most affa brae set. Sair tae work, and it wis a muckle toon, oh it would a been about a thousand acres wi the rough grazing, and up ere it is frosty awa up abeen Huntly. Drumdelgie, it's interesting to notice that all place names have a meaning. Now Drumdelgie, now the Drum part means a ridge, alright? And by jove it is a ridge, yer clim'in a the wey tae the steadin tae the main road. The Drum is a ridge. And the delgie bit means covered wi whins, ye ken fit whins is ? fauns, fauns. And of course there is the school boy rhyme, fauns fun? but fauns in a bad ?? is nae fun. Whinnie ridge then. I think we'll get Gordon to introduce us to the saga of Drumdelgie by singing it. Will ye sing it for us Gordon?

[GE] I''ll dae ma best.

[CB] There we are, well no man can do more.


I hid a bonnet, so I could pit on. I think that's it. [Laughs.].

There's a fairm toon up in Cairnie, it's kent baith far and wide
It's ca'd the hash o Drumdelgie on bonny Deveronside
The fairmer o yon muckle toon he is baith hard and sair
On the cauldest days that ever blas his servants get their share.

At five o'clock that we quickly rise and hurry doon the stair
Tae get wir horses corned and fed likewise tae strake their hair
Syne efter workin half an oor each tae the kitchie goes
Tae get started tae wir brakfast, which generally's brose.

We've scarcely gotten oor brose weel supped and gien wir pints a tie
Fin the grieve he says, 'Come on noo lads the hoor is dra'in nigh'
At sax a'clock the mull's put on tae gie us a' stracht work
Take sax o us is tae work tae her till ye could ring wir sark.

Syne efter the mull it is shut aff and we hurry doon the stair
Tae get some quarters through the fan er daylicht dis appear
Syne cloods begin tae gently lift, the sky begins tae clear
An the foreman says, 'Come on noo lads, ye'll bide nae langer here'.

For it's sax o ye'll gang tae the ploo and twa tae ca the neeps
An the owsen they'll nae be efter ye wi strae rapes roon their queets
When pittin on the harness and gaein off tae yoke
The drift gang on sae very thick that we wis like tae choke.

And the frost had been saw very hard, the ploo she widnae go
And so wir cairten days commenced among the frost and snow
Noo wir horses bein baith young and sma, the shafts they didnae fill
And they sometimes nott a tracer tae help them up the hill.

But we will sing oor horses praise though they be young and sma
They far ootshine the Broadlands eens, that gang say weel and bra
But it's fare ye well Drumdelgie, for I maun gang awa
It's fare ye weel Drumdelgie, yer weety weather and a'.

Aye, fare ye weel Drumdelgie, I bid ye a' adieu
I'll leave ye as I got ye, a maist unceevil crew.


[CB] And that of course is a grand example of a cornkister. At five o'clock we've got tae rise and hurry doon the stair. Now that means that the sleeping quarters or the chaumer as it was called up here, was very often abeen the stable. Now my sanction for that of course is a quotation from 'The Dying Ploughboy'. Remember it opens 'The gloamin winds are sighin saft abeen my lowly stable laft'. Very often the horsemen sleepit abeen the stable. And they hurried doon the stair withoot tyin their boots and it was there tae corn their horses. Now they corned their horses oot o the cornkist, which of course gave its name to the type of songs that the horsemen sang, the cornkister. The cornkist was a wooden bin and the horse's measure of corn was a square boxy, and ye filled it fae the cornkist level. But afore that the horse hid tae get a drink. That wis the first thing, they didnae get their corn or their hay before they got a drink. And wi yer shoes, wi yer boots rather, shoes did I say? Yer beets still unfastened, ye took yer horse oot tae the water trouch, ye put him back and then they got their ?? of corn.

Speaking of auld words, I believe Scots is very much alive and will continue to be so, but of course with changing fashions and changing systems in farming, words like leapy, well if you asked a 10 year old country loony fit leapy wis, he wouldnae ken because, because he's never seen horse corn, it's a attractive, nae hairm til him. And when ye speak aboot boots wi yer laces untied, ye dinnae get boots like at now, ye dinnae get tackity boots now, they would cost, a pair o tackity boots would cost aboot £50 because they'd tae be practically purpose made. Now ye a ken fit tackits is? Yes, ye div? How would ye describe them though, they werenae exactly studs, there wis on studs in a lady's boot at at time, lady's boot come in calf length, but the fairm chiels hid a patterin o tackits in the soles o their sheen. A tackit. I eence heard an auld man it wis, and ?? fed up wi a loonie's chik, we was coolin hay, and he wis cheekin the auld man and the auld man turned on him, and says 'Awa wi ye man, ye're jist like a tackit, ye're a heid'. [Laughs.] There's the other famous phrase, I mine on a chiel sayin tae me, he says 'Follow me an yer tackits'll never roost'. And ??? ye'll aye get adventure. Aye well, tackits and sheen. Of course in those days it wisnae the case o gan doon tae the Broch, doon tae the Braes for a pair o shoes. Ye gid tae the Souters for yer sheen, and ye paid them at the term.

There wis a boot ca'd 'Herd laddie', die ye mine on that? No? Ah well, but I mine, at wis een o the boxes, o there would a been about a ??? o stew on it ye ken. Laughs. But throw the stew and aul Willie Simpson's souter's shop, is wis Herd Laddie. And spikkin aboot auld words now. Auld Willie Simpson woulda fumbled among is boxes, and he'd a ??? he says 'it's a guid be dicken'. De ye remember that a 'be dicken', a 'guid be dicken'. What yes?

I kint the word fine. I kent Willie Simpson fine.

[CB] Did ye, yes. This is a lady who claims tae hear ma ??? in ma pram. [Laughs.]

She's claimed tae be mair than at.


[CB] Alright, I was gan tae tell ye. Now, and the cornkister of course got it's name from the fact that if the lads did have a minute, and they sometimes had, not very many of them, they would set on tae the cornkist, ye see that wis the bench. And they would sing and they would dir these great big boots against the side ye see. Well, we'll have another one.

[CB] Sings (and keeps rhythm with boots)

'A New Deer ??? show ???
A child, a youth fae Methlick came
And then ye'll know the ???
The station clerk ???

Ye see, and the cornkister arrived. There's another auld word ca'd and it's 'coonter mashers', and rather difficult to define. It's a kind of, the wife asks ye if ye'll ca in an ingin, or tae hing a picture. ???? Ah well, ????? ?????? Well hiv ye the haimer lookit oot? Coonter mashers. There's aye anither wey in't. Isabel's going to recite a poem to us that kind a illustrates the coonter mashersness of human nature. It's funny how ither folk aye ken a wee bittie better than yersel. Aye, well she's going to read you one of Aesop's fables, expressed in Scots by a Peterhied loon, Dr Robert Steven, ye've mebbe heard o him. Right, without more ado Isabel, illustrate the coonter masherness of human nature by reading us, is it the crofter and the donkey, and it's in here. Now ye see ye coulda hid that lookit oot at the time at ye wis at coonter mashers. Laughs. We've managed some forty odd year and then.

[IB] Yes. This is the
'Crofter, his son and the donkey'
A crofter and his loon set oot for the market ey fine day.
They were going to sell their donkey for he'd etten a their hay
The market toon's sax mile awa,if we let him walk himsel
then he'd still be hale and hearty when we get him tae the sale
The loon agreed wi faither so they set aff doon the road
Wi the donkey stepping freely, withoot rider, pack or load

Fan they came across some lassies, ca'd the ??? smirk and lauch
Says ey lassie tae anither, I think they must be daft
For that muckle strappin donkey walks along withoot a pack
And the mannie and the loonie could be sittin on his back
So the crofter pits his son up, jist ye sit there ma loon
Ye can rest yer legs a bittie till we reach the market toon
They had gained anither mile or twa wi the loon upon the ass
When they passed twa bent auld mannies, playin the ??? for the grass

Jist nae respect for parents, at's the young folk noo-adays
E loonie should be walkin the ey wi the grey beard says
So the crafter and the loonie swapit ower and on they went
Till they met a twa, three wifies wi a different argument
Ye aucht tae be ashamed for sittin on that thing
A great big strappin chiel like you, fan yer loonie runs ahin
The creatur's nearly puggled, he can hardly keep it up
We'll tell the NSPPC if ye dinnae let him up

So the crofter lifts the loonie on the donkey's back an a
They would seen be at the market for it wisnae far awa
But a stranger overtook them as the donkey struggled on
It wis trachled wi the burden o the crofter and his son

If you don't get down this instant, they baith heard the stranger say
I'll report you in a letter to the RSPCA. You really ought tae be ashamed
A donkey isna fit tae carry twa big men like you, You aught tae carry it!
By this time the weary crofter had taen more than he could thole
So he tied the donkey's feet up and they strung him on a pole
Then the crofter and the loonie played an unaccustomed role
They were trachled wi the burden of the donkey on the pole

They were pechin sair and chavin, fen they had tae cross a lin
On a little shakin briggie it wis sweyin in the win
But the loonie tripped and stummled, and had to let it go
And pole and donkey tummled to the torrent far below
And the moral plain and simple of this cautionary tale
Ye canna please abody, so it's best tae please yersel.


[CB] Thank you Isabel. And JC Milne has written about Buchan that it's made up of peat bogs and puddocks tails and coonter masher's deals. Yes. My French teacher she used to say that she didn't know why the French word, em ???, the angel was always masculine. She said she thought it was some consolation that the french word for Diable, devil was always masculine too. We won't go too far into that.

[CB] Where were we? Ah! We're heading doon the stair likewise tae corn oor horses, we've been intae that. Likewise 'tae stracht their hair' with the curry comb and the ???. And of course great stress was laid upon the condition of your grooming, the standard of your grooming and the condition of your horse's coat. And I have been told by an old farmer ???, by a gentleman farmer going into the stable with white gloves and putting his hand over the horse's rump and if the merest speck of dust showed up on the white glove the horseman was dismissed. Oh yes, oh yes. The fairmers of the muckle toons could be hard and sair, but of course it was just the ploughmen knew the score and eh, and toed the line, because of course there was great pride of work. Your horse had to be turned out well. They gladly spent their leisure hours in the stable, beetling the harness, polishing and ?? till it shone. In fact there is the story of one horseman taking the cart saddle home to the wee cottage, ey cotterman taking the cart saddle home to burnish it up. And to see how it looked on his horse, he asked his wife to get down on all fours and he put the saddle on his back to see. I kid you not! I think David ?? ???. Terrific pride in the horse and the harness, and so much was horse related as we see for example in one of our oldest ballads, 'Mournin braes', the story of a jilted lass. 'Fare ye well, the mournin braes, twas there I lost my dearir. But (she says), there's mony a horse has snappered and fa'n, or broken his harness and fallen in the cart, and arisen again full early, there's mony a lass that's lost her lad and gotten a new een early'. Do you remember that one?

There's mony horse has snappered and fa'n and arisen again foo early
There's mony a lass at lost a lad and gotten a new een early'

[CB] Everything related to the horse. As many a horse may fall over his reins or something like that, and rise again. So a lass will get another lad, and then there's another ballad, aboot Auld Johnny ??? the Foreman. De ye mine on that? His daughter is a bit of a tomboy but when she goes tae the church on the Sunday 'her hair is daen up like my aul horse's tail' And he says it's a pony tail in front of him?


Well, we've straight the horse's hair. And then you go to for your breakfast, which generally is brose, and we have remember the mention of brose in another ballad [Laughs.]

Meg MacPherson maks ma brose and her and me we dinna agree
The first of oat and sign of ?? and aye ????
?????? Naebody, go as you please.
Meg MacPherson makes ma brose and her and me dinna gree.

[CB] Of course there are many versions. Where do you think we are now then? Now well we have brose, we give our pints a tie, points, laces. The old fashioned laces of course for tackity boots was a thin leather thong, not like, not like these, or not like these, but a thin leather thong.

[CB] Would have left the school at twelve, that's got to be before 1842, eh, not, sorry as you were, that's got to be before 1872 when the education, compulsory education act came in. This old chap left the 'pairish skweel' at twelve. And his first fee for six month was, (pause) a pair of boots. And I have, and as far as I can see that would have been worth about 30 shillings, that's £1.50 in today's money. Mind you he was only twelve. He was a little better than a lad in Nicky Tams, which starts

Fan I wis only ten years auld I left the pairish skweel,
Ma faither fee'd me tae the Mains to try his milk and meal. (That's brose again)
I First put on ma nether breeks ti hap ma spinnel trams,
Sine buckled roon ma happit knees a pair o' Nicky Tams.


[CB] Now if you look at Gordon's nicky tams, they are quite a handsome pair.

[GE] ?? buckle on them.

[CB] The grieve actually very often had a metal tip there to denote his rank, not only the buckle but it was metal tipped. But I think we'll let Nicky Tams get back on to the programme don't you? ([Applause.]). Come on then Gordon, your choice, your choice. While Gordon is getting ready I assure you the bothy band in the old days, here we have a lad with a tin whistle, a lad with a fiddle, two lads with fiddles and a lad with bagpipes, must have made quite an ensemble. OK?

[Band plays. Audience sings along.]

Aikey Brae, Aikey brae, there's been a horsemarket for many a day

[GE] (Encouraging audience to sing)

[CB] I remember aul Menzies, this lady kens aul Menzies, that wis my grandfather, aye, at, one of the auld Menzies was my grandfather, but his successor auld Menzies he liket a tootie ye ken, [Laughs.] the lads when they went tae Aikie Fair, which was a Wednesday, and then Aikie Brae which was a Sunday, on the Wednesday there was an auld character doon by the ??? a Jimmy Chalmers, and Jimmy Chalmers jist hid a richt good Aikie Fair. He says '???? it's like a haerst'. Ye ken [Laughs.]. Well I mine he wisnae foo he jist hid plenty, but he wis at at stage and of course in those days there wis the horselines at Aikie Fair and auld Menzies was needin a horse and I mine on him sayin tae ma father, 'I maun buy some aul balloon the day though it costs me sixty pound!' Mebbe even though an auld balloon, even though a horsie was broken in the wind, do you remember yon. 'Did ye ever see sik a ?? as my auld horse Dobbin, ye could hang up yer jacket on his ???, he wis broken in the wind, and when he began tae run he made a noise like a dozen ???
[Laughs.] Back to Gordon.

[GE] We wis speakin aboot this Jimmy Chalmers. Well he'd a place at Brora, as Mr Burnie kens better than me. But him and the wife fell oot and she was determined tae leave him in the course o time, so ok on you go. So the day she left he accompanied her oot the road playing 'Hey bonnie lassie bundle and ??' on his pipes. And when he come back he had a thoucht, played 'will ye no come back again'. Well he's puttin a the tunes in ma heid.

[Plays fiddle.]

[CB] At's a bonny tune.

[GE] At's the ???? [Problem with tape - speeding up.]

[GE] Now Mr Burnie made up an affa fine sang. Alec Broon, at used tae be in e the garage at ???, he's nae ???? but him and me played…. I was a loon, they aye took me for Alec's son, [Laughs.] ye ken I was aye kinda flattered. Disnae metter, that wis in bygone days. But Alec composed a tune och, mair than sixty years ago. 'When the heather blooms in mornin'. It's an affa bonnie tune, it is a bonnie tune, and I've played it masel a puckle o times. He said, at's a tune deserves words, so he composed a lot o fine words tae this tune. Can I sing tae ye?


It's aboot, when the heather blooms in morning. Ye'll hae tae tell me the wey tae start it noo.

It's not that, it'll maybe come to us. Play the tune, play us the tune.

Oh there's the bonnie banks o Lomond, and Maxwelton's bonnie braes
And the hills alang the Boddam side is one the minstrels praise.
But the ??? woods o Mormond bears the ????
When the heather blooms for Mormond and a the braes are braw

Tak the braes o Killicrankie and the wids o Craigie Lea
The banks o Aberfeldy and the Royal banks o Dee
But alang the swathes o mornin, bears the ??? them a
When the heather blooms on mornin and a the braes are braw

Noo, they say that Ben MacDhui is at twa, three thoosan high
And the braes o lofty Cuillins in the misty Isle o Skye
But I wouldna change my mornin for the splendid ?? of a
When the heather blooms on morning and a the braes are braw

Noo come on a ye coothie Buchan folk, come in and gether roon
I've made ye up a ???? a guid aul fettle tune
I may find ye cheery and guid fortune ye be ??
When the heather blooms on mornin, may a yer braes be braw

That's it. [Applause.]

[GE] It ??? I was singin a wee bittie high kin.

[CB] I thought it was wonderful.


[CB] It's amazing how many… I think we'll have our tea at the very end.

It's great how the various versions there are of legends, for example Gordon and Jimmy Chalmers playin the wife oot o'er the hill a ???? bundle and go. The wey that I got it was ???? [Tape too fast.]

That's a lovely story about husband and wife. And o they jist had a right fa out, that was it, she was leavin. So she got her casie stappit foo and snappit it shut and headed oot o the door ???? aye, he says yer nae gan oot o here afore ????


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