The Banff and Buchan Collection

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Tape 1994.049 transcription

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[Gordon Easton] [Sings]

A plooin match here I'll insert,
Which made oor plooman chiels divert,
Although it rhymes I'm nae expert,
I'll try my best this mornin.

This match came aff in Tyrie Perish,
The oot turn for't wis pretty fairish,
Although the day wis rither airish,
They got het sarks that mornin.

Mains o Mcknagran wis the place,
An Mr Lovie did them embrace,
An gart the ploomen say their grace,
Or they begun that mornin.

Twis February the twinty-saicant,
That self same day we were expectin,
Awite Mcknagran wisna vacant
Wi men an horse that mornin.

The day was fresh ??? fixed,
Their numbers I will tell ye next,
Wis fower an twinty ploomen met,
Upon the place that mornin.

The ??? seemed nae coowards,
The ploos were resting on their boards,
Their coulters shining sharp as swords,
In the rising sun that morning.

While in a group they a' did stan,
Their tickets drew wi anxious hand,
Ilk een thinkin he'd be the man,
As sure's a gun that mornin.

??? wi im I wis fair delighted,
Fin eence I saw em a' united,
Ma heart wis pleasure a' excited,
Four storeys high that mornin.

They did their work in first-rate style,
According ti their different style,
It seems as if they'd a' hid ile,
Among their joints at mornin.

The judge was mister Garden Walls,
Eir neiper fairmer fae Blackhills,
Fa's judgement satisfied their wills,
As near's he could that mornin.

En John Jaffray fairmer West Greenburn,
A-judgin dis his ??? turn,
An unjust judgement John wid spurn,
Especially that mornin.

They ??? the prizes they'd award,
As follows by our simple bard,
For standin close to them ower hard,
Proclaimed aloud that mornin.

Charlie Alexander first did stand,
Although he's but a little man,
He showed em a' that wis on the land,
The wey to plough that mornin.

??? Mr Lovie's ???
For Charlie's beasts they been braid

George Willox, fairmer, ???
The second prize is his they claimed,
For it was Geordie's anxious aim,
He did his best that mornin.

And Johnnie Chalmer's fairmer's son,
Fae South Blackhills the third did win,
And thought his pairt he'd manly done,
To skirt wi it at mornin.

Fourth William Alexander, mason,
Fas work that time had nae been praising,
Come ower and gied em a' a lesson,
Upon the plough that mornin.

Twis fae Geordie Morris, Auchentongue,
Unless required that mornin.

Mark Andrew White, servant Wellheid,
Nae doubt fit he'd been wondrous gled,
The second yokin ???
Gained fifth prize that mornin.

George Esslemont, fairmer o Wellheid,
??? For he's himself a-ploughin braid,
He did his best that mornin.

Sixth, Johnny Sim fae Smiddyseat,
His horse and harness wis richt neat,
There wis gey few that could him beat,
Wi falderals that mornin.

Seventh was gained bi Jimmy Piper,
Fae at his ??? held nae ???,
But ower the craggy rocks they'd swipe him,
Wi manly pooer that mornin.

Wis fae Mr Wallace o Whitebog,
That might o got his ??? that roam,
I doubt he filled the leepie cog,
Brought well to them that mornin.

Eighth, Alex Mutch, servant Greenburn,
That ??? gart murn,
I think he may store added turn,
As I would guess that mornin.

Ninth wis gained by William Walls,
Fairmer's son, Mains o Blackhills,
Fas bloomin sheep wis worth four gills,
O ony cowan that mornin.

??? Johnston, fairmer Myrie Dubbs,
By daybreak filled his horse's grubs,
For he hears somethin ???
O ??? gatherin that mornin.

Although the tenth prize Jimmy got,
The hinmaist een o a' the lot,
??? well pleased hung on his coat,
And gaed whistlin hame that mornin.

Miss Mary Low wi active han,
An nimble feet attained the land,
Refreshments gaed to ilkae man
That wis present there that mornin.

Alexander Low then justly ???,
And thanked them wi a warm heart,
For actin sic a friendly pair,
As they did ti him that mornin.

The ploomin hamewards noo retired,
For each their yokin wis expired,
Their work ye fairly wid admire,
If ye'd been ere that mornin.

A friendly ploughin match held at Blackhills, Tyrie. Composed by William Jaffray, West Greenburn, Tyrie--February, 1866.

[Tom McKean] Where did you first hear that?

[GE] Oh I've heard it fae I wis jist a toddler. Well it happened jist up the road here, it wis affa local and we were much involved in it ye see, cause ma great great great grandfaither, he wis the fairmer at Wellhead and he put his man up. Andy White did a parting ye see so there wis a family involvement in it en a. The Low family, door masons to trade, although they hid the fairm, they hid a lot o illness in the family that winter and they fell ahint wi their work. It was the locals it proposed ti haud this ploughin match ti help em oot wi their spring work, an affa good idea. The land wis a ploughed up for them and a bit o competition, social gatherin, it wis great. It wis often taen oot fin er wis a ceilidh going on doon in the auld hoose, or a gatherin o folk that wis interested in the Doric, local things or music, this document wis taen oot en somebody either hid ti, either recite it syne.

[TM] So there was a written copy in the house?

[GE] Oh aye there wis a written copy all the time. In fact it was printed, I think, bit they hid also written it. There wis an auld fashioned hinging lum in the hoose, there wis yon calendars wi the pouches in em, and ma granda used to keep a lot o his important documents just handy aside in is hoose, stored in is open calendar pouch.
     Aye it was prized document, a lot thought o. It's really a good poem and it involves a the local districts, well there's a lot o places still in existence yet ye see, some changed names maybe. Course e families they've a changed names, it was Esslemont that wis my relation it were here, George Esslemont. My great grandfaither married George Esslemont's daughter and took on e tenancy and eventually bought it, and it's been the Eastons ever since ye see, and this wis 1866 that the ploughin match, a lang time ago.

[TM] So was the song written out in the family or printer at that time do you think?

[GE] I canna tell ye that, it wis a printed form that I saw ye see, goes back a good lot o years. George Jaffray, one o the judges at the ploughin, it was his son at composed it, and he wis a soutarman, my great granfather, apprentice soutar at a soutar's shops up the road here. So ye see there wis an affa big connection wi the ploughin match and the composer in the folk that wis takin part.

[TM] And it was important to your father that somebody sing it?

[GE] Oh aye, as I said there wis a lot o social evenings doon here, cause they loved music. Ma grunnie wis a good singer. The local grocer used ti come up every winter, sometimes twice in a winter, and Mrs McHardie, his grandaughter, she still lives in Strichen yet, she used to come along wi him, she sung, and George played the fiddle. It wis the strings, the heat aff the peat fire, the note hid ti be retuned atween ilkae selection… En at's far I got the pitches in ma heed, oh I hid a good ear, and I could tune my fiddle afore I could play it, just listenin to him tuning ower the years tuning is fiddle. So he got an auld fiddle hame wi him one night ti string up for me ti play en at wis the start o my fiddlin.

[TM] And on a night like that the song would be taken out?

[GE] Aye and a' the ither ballads that I sing ti the present day. A lot o them wis sung, ye see, but is een wis aye taen oot; it wis in prominence, The Plooin match.

[TM] You think that one was more important to your father than the others maybe because it was so local?

[GE] Well I would say so, aye, well it wis o great importance ti them, ye see.

[TM] It certainly ties you to the place.

[GE] That the thing is it involved a' the neighboors tee, ye see. George Fowlie, up ti a certain stage; he hid a lot o fiddle pupils. He wis a grocer and also a gardener, he hid a big garden himsel. Fin the fiddle wis ready I walkit doon ti e shop--they widnae gie me ma bike in case I fell aff ma bike and dropped the fiddle, an aboot halfway hame, fit we came tae Scarehill, I took the fiddle oot the box and hid a go at it, I got the first bitties o 'There Was A Happy Land' [laughs]. So, that's the story o the ploughin match.

[TM] So have your children heard this song as well?

[GE] No I widnae say so. Ethel wis at the college an so forth as soon as she left the Academy, well awa fae hame at an early age. Aye she knows about it, well things were a wee bittie different at this time, we hid our jobs ti dae, the ceilidhs stopped, the auld folk were awa. Ye see, ma granda died, just a different wey o life. We hid our living ti make en at. I gaed oot aboot for music ti the Strathspey an Reel Society in Fetterangus fae I wis fourteen. Jim Mitchell's brither up the road here, he wis keen, he wint ti the ??? Reel Society and they broke and he said if I wint ti Fetterangus will you come ower wi me, so I practised at Fetterangus, twelve mile or mair, twenty-four mile return.

[TM] So did the nights at home stop when you were fourteen?

[GE] Well more or less, aye there wis an occasional night wi a younger squad, my age, my cousin up e road here he played the accordion en in fact he hid a band and I wis involved in at a while tee. Some o the other members came in aboot; we often hid a musical evening here, but just occasional--Bertie Simpson fae Mintlaw, he played accordion, music nae singing; that wis the finish o the singing.

[TM] How often would there be a sing-song down at the old house?

[GE] Oh I would say twice in the course o a week, I would say. George Howie came up, unless somebody popped in. There wis an auld folk singer across in the moss here, he used ti come affa occasionally and he wid hae sung 'Bonnie Ythanside' I jist mind him singin.

[TM] Do you know that one?

[GE] Nae athegither, I've niver sung it. 'Bonnie Ythanside'; 'Bonnie Lass o Fyvie,' an lots o ither ballads ye ken, jist things that stick in yer mind. At's aboot it, it wis jist a younger set up soon efter they pass on.

[TM] What year did your parents pass on?

[GE] Ma granparents, I canna tell ye offhand, but afore we were married a while. Fifty-five year ago, at's a good guess.

[TM] When did your parents pass on, your mother and father?

[GE] My father wis killed a lang time ago. My mother died last year, a year past January, she was eighty-seven. In fact she gied ma a copy o this in her handwriting maybe four years ago maybe.

[TM] She had it all in her head then?

[GE] It was mair ma grandfather and ma granny, the aulder generation ye see, bit ma mither wis affa enthusiastic tee, she played the fiddle an a'. She sang awa, I didnae like her singing, maybe she didnae like my singing I don't know [laughs].

[TM] That's interesting that one or two people every generation have thought this an important song and remembered it.

[GE] It's been kept in existence ye see, some things fa by the wayside, but as far as our hoosehold went it's something I heard as muckle when I wis young, I wid never forget. That's the first time I've sung it, I've hummed awa at bitties oh it, but I dinna really ken it withoot the words in the front. Social history right enough, it involves, An affa lot o the places are still in existence yet.

[TM] Could we go through it then and have a look at some of them? So where is Mains of Mcknagran?

[GE] Well it's just up there, you were jist looking at it, the brae, through the trees ye dinna see the hooses for is double tree here, just aboot half a mile up the road.

[TM] Is that North?

[GE] No at's West. Southwest it would be. It's a hill nae so high as Mormon.

[TM] Is the farm still there?

[GE] Aye, at's Mitchell's home. No, no it's 16 Blackhills but Mcknagran is the name o it, at's the hill o McNagran that's marked on a the maps.

[TM] Mr Low was the tenant there?

[GE] He wis the tenant at at time, aye. His family were masons but they also hid the plough tee, jist as a standby.

[TM] And Mcknagran is the place that the ploughing took place?

[GE] Aye, that's fit the verse says, ye see.

[TM] Aye one of my favourite expressions guid fegs. Now, Mr Gordon Walls?

[GE] Well he wis doon Mains o Blackhills at's far Lovie stays now, doon past the quarry a bit aye at wis Mains o Blackhills, well there wis relations o oors in Mains o Blackhills, tae ye see.

[TM] He was the judge?

[GE] He wis one o judges and John Jaffray, at's far he stayed across here far ma cousin is, at West Kinburn. Nearer han than Mitchell's jist through the trees here, twa parks awa, that's his trees that ye see doon below. [14] An it wis his son at wis the apprentice soutar wi my great grandfather. It wis him that composed 'The Ploughin Match'.

[TM] And where did they work at the soutaring?

[GE] Up the road a bit further, the next place past Mitchell's on the right-hand side. Golden Square, 17 Blackhills, but it got the name o Golden Square at one time.

[TM] Why was that, do you know?

[GE] No I canna tell ye why it got Golden Square.

[TM] Interesting name.

[GE] Any it is interesting. They hid a hoose and a high building en the soutar's shop wis doon below and the apprentice soutar slept up in e top in e loft, at wis far they slept.

[TM] So the apprentice soutar would not have gone home in the evening?

[GE] Well I dinna ken fit they'd dee, maybe oot courting or hame ti see their folks. Oh I they wid hae gone hame ti see their folks, but ye see my great grandfather's folk were nae here fin he wis apprentice soutar, his folk hid another place ower at New Pitsligi, the Esslemonts were here ye see and he eventually married, there wis two Esslemont lassies, never a son, at's why it wis aye passed on is place cause it wis aye female children they hid, aye somebody else married in an took ower: ???, Mitchells, Eastons, it jist continued fae there. There wis aye a grandson, well fin they left the school he wis aye taen hame ti work ti let the older eens awa ti dae apprenticeship or ti gae them a chance in life. So at's how I landed here and niver got oot o it.

[TM] John Jaffray just over there?

[GE] Aye and Charlie Alexander. Well he must hae been foreman at Hillhead ye see cause it was Hillhead's horse that he hid. He must hae been foreman ploughman at Hillhead o Tyrie and that's jist doon, ye ken, past the quarry, at Smiddyseat Quarry; straight doon e road there's a crossroads, turn right en up at the next crossroads the fairm immediately on your right. He got the fairmer's horse, it was Mr Lovie that wis fairmer at Hillhead right enough. En George Willox doon at shop far George Fowlie hid e shop in Tyrie there wis e fairm which hid nithing ado wi the shop, e shop wis the either side o the road. An is George Willox, he shifted fae this Cauldhame till Mains o Blackhills efter at Walls wint oot. En his grandson wis my step-father fin ma dad wis killed ma mum married Jim Willox ye see, so we're a' involved ye see. He died four-five year ago and ma mum died a year ago. So at's the Cauldhame. It's oot o existence noo; it's part o South Whitewell, now the Duffus' place. There wis five little places a' gaed thegither ti make a better fairm and at made South Whitewell, but the hooses were ere. They used it as a cottar hoose, the craft hoose, up ti maybe twenty years ago, but it's jist a ruin now. We mind families biding in it Cauldhame.

[TM] How big were all the holdings round here? Were they much the same size?

[GE] No, there wis a' different sizes. Es een across here, George Jaffray's een, is twice size. There wid be forty-six acre here at e time o George Esslemont wis, but as soon as he grew auld he let a bit o it awa cause he felt he wisnae fit ti cope wi it, reduced e size o it a bittie. And Mitchell's place up e road I wid say thirty-five acres maybe Mcknagran. Hillhead it could maybe one hundred and twenty acres. Now South Blackhills I think at's exactly far Lovie's Quarry is, there's a wee bit o a debate aboot is. The hoose is still standing in e steadings still standing bit it wis a hilly place, but it's a' levelled aff. So at wis South Blackhills as far as we're aware.
Johnny Chalmers, I dinna mind on Chalmers, but I jist heard it through this thing. William Alexander, he wis a mason, noo I dinna ken far e devil he came fae. He came ower and gave em a' a lesson on the plough at morning because his work wid hae been pushing him. George Murray at wid hae been aboot thirty-five acres, jist straight up e road here aboot a mile, a' planted in trees noo, the hoose and e steadings still there en it's an Englishman who bought it wi two-three acres o land.
     There wis another lad bought a lot o the places, Dr Banks, wisnae an Englishman, I dinna think. He took on is ???, got a the grants that wis available en he bought is Auchentumb, he began ti feel e pinch after he got a his grants used up, he sold the hooses, steadings and bittie ground wi them. He sold three holdings, the hoose, steadings and maybe three or four acres o ground, so it's a planted wi trees.
     And Andrew White he wis e servant here ye see, they hid as muckle ground here, as auld Esslemont employed a young loon.

[TM] So what size is this now?

[GE] Oh thirty odd acre, it was fourty-five acre, at's fin the auld man leased a bit o it ti the next fairm doon the road here. Up ti that point he needed a man ti work it, but that wis aboot the last o his days ye see he wis coming on. I dinna cane how auld he wis without research, but he wis ere at the ploughin match, cause the man who composed it wis an apprentice soutar wi my granda, they could hae been eighteen, maybe less, cause they wid hae left the school maybe twelve at at time.

[TM] Well they might not have been at school before the Education Act.

[GE] Yes there were at school cause ma granda gaed ti the Tyrie School. His father wi a toll keeper, they hid the tolls on the roads en the women were usually the toll keeper and fir carts, cattle or sheep they opened the gates and charged a certain amount and at wis used to keep the roads in good conditions. It wis sort o a business ye see, my grandfather hid a pair o horse en twa carts and they ca'd stuff to repair the roads and worked on e roads steady. Also doon at Maud and doon at Auchmore, sometimes moved on ti a better ene if they could afford it, eventually they finished up at Burley, Toll o Burley, at's still in existence yet, as a lodge. They hid 30 acre of land, fit's caed the Toll Park noo, far he grazed his horse en got his hay, coos and so forth. They took on a bit o land, still in the Burley Estate, en ma granda and his sister were put up ti it as soon they got a hoose by it. In fact the haill of Scotland taen in by pick and spad, ye ken, afore mechanical means o daein it, it wis a' trenched in fae the heather, steens, hell of a work, ti see it gan ti ruin now. So they got a hoose up in e steading, wis excavated jist intae face o hill and thatched ti start wi. My great granda and his sister wis puttan up ti look after it once they hid stock there.

[TM] What was your great grandfather's name?

[GE] Thomas Easton. He wid hae sorted is beasts afore he wint awa ti his apprentice soutaring. He wid hae stayed at hame well after they hid the place and sorted em again fin he came back at night. It wis jist how folk lived it at time. Do you know aboot Smiddyseat. Well the neipering fairm doon e road here bought Smiddyseat aboot six years ago, the twa men, well guy auld lads getting the Marsh's they retired so Keith ma neighbour doon e road bought Smiddyseat, between eighty-ninety acre, a right good place. So after he hid it bought he selt the hoose and steading ti a young chappie and he dinna hae the hoose and steading now but he's got the land. Jimmy Piper, aye well he must hae been man at Whitebog. Whitebog's just across, far Isobel's dad wis, queer how it a knits in. Is Jimmy Piper must hae been man ti Wallace o Whitebog, south east fae here. Well there wis families o Wallace, generations o em in Whitebog, wis a tenanted place. Soon efter is auld man Wallace grew auld and dottled he couldna handle e fairm, but wis determined ti stay on, but died, but soon the place came up for let and her dad took it, hid a place doon aside the Broch, a smaller een, but he came up ti Whitebog, it wis a good bit bigger bit hid a lot o moss ye see, rough kind o grun, he improved it affa taking stones and draining it in so forth.

Lot o folk used to cast peats oot it, he also grazed his sheep in parts o it, aye the bits that wisnae dangerous. 120 acre in Whitebog I think, they did well on it. Up on the moss it got rocky steady, jist is barrier o stones, twa paths, workable, but a good lot o stones in em. But further up intae moss wis pure moss, nae production aff it. Do you know what a leapie cog is? We'll it's a measure for the horse corn ye ken.

[TM] I've heard of a leapie.

[GE] Well at's the leapie, just a square it held a measure o corn in yer horse got a half or hail measure, fitever size and condition yer horse wis in. 'So I doubt he filled the leapie cog gey well to them that mornin.'
     Alex Mutch, servant, Greenburn, that's jist the place doon the hill here. It's between Whitebog and here, ye see a these places. Well he wis horseman at Greenburn, the heather, guy rough in the hill ere, good grun, but heather and winds and he wid hae landed a harder kind o bit. Ninth wis William Walls, fairmer's son Mains o Blackhills, that's a son o the judge, he wis Gordon Walls en is is William Walls, fairmer Sim, Mains o Blackhills whose ploughmanship wis 4 gills to ony cowan. Do you know what a cowan is? Well a cowan's jist a bit o nae top notch, nae a perfectionist, nae a first-class worker. Well he wis well back on the prizelist ninth place ye see, well that's him, better than fifteen others anyway.
     And see here James Johnston, fairmer, Myriedubs, that's the place aside Auchentumb tae, thirty-five acres I see. I like is een.

[TM] What's crubs

[GE] Well it's their manger, cribs for haudin the food. Some say here somethin tae your gabs, but I like at better I think at's fit my granda hid in his, gabs that your moo, their gabs, at's okay but the cribs/crubs at wis the manger. Miss Mary Low, she wis the daughter, 'Miss Mary Low wi active han, en nimble feet attend the land'. She wis dishing oot refreshments among em, she wis an active quine. He's her dad Alexander Low the fairmer again, or mason, fitever ye wint tae call him. Then justly saired, he wis fair chuffed at getting is and thanked em wi a warm heart, as they did ti him at mornin.
     I think is is good ti, 'the ploughmin hamewards noo retired for eence their yokin wis expired'. It takes a bit reading is ye see. I think it's great, but somebody nae interested in the countryside or Doric widnae think it, but as for your project it should fit the bill ye see.

[TM] Just gives me a picture of the whole place that I wouldn't have.

[GE] Athings in sight o here.


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