Tha Auld Wife’s Lament fur her Smoothin Boord

Author: Anne Smyth

Date: 2013

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 13 Hairst 2013

(with apologies to David Herbison, the Bard of Dunclug)

Anne Smyth


Wae’s me! Leuk whar ma airn’s lit —

Ma smoothin boord’s athoot a fit[1],

’At syne wud haud a runkled sark[2],

Or ither claes,

An help tha airn tae dae its wark

On monie days.

O smoothin boords it bore tha gree[3].

Richt stoot an strang it aye wud be,

Tae tak tha thraw o ma richt airm

Wi airn in han;

An no a scaud or ither hairm

Tae bairn or man.

Afore it cum, A wusnae blate[4]

Tae smooth whar we wud ate oor mait,

Tha boord wi han-cloots[5] lappit roon,

Tae hap tha scruif[6],

An mak tha timmer[7] forder[8] doon

Frae scowder[9] pruif[10].

A hairt o coarn, guid freen tae me,

Taen peety, an (nae misert she)

Gaed oot an coft[11] a guid stieve[12] stan[13],

Fur smoothin richt;

An, onbeknownst, intae ma han

Gied it thon nicht.

Tha lappin[14] aff, a union fleg

Wus hingin til its weel-turn’t leg;

An straucht A pit it tae tha pruif,

An lippent[15] til’t,

Tha airn hannle, in ma luif[16],

Wi watter fill’t.

Throch therty-echt haird-warkin yeir,

Wi fewer weans tae gie us cheer,

Tha smoothin boord aye stuid tha test,

An helt its grun,

Fur British-made is aye tha best —

Forgie tha pun…

Tha auld fowk taak o weans bewutched,

An houl a bairnie micht be swutched.

We skellied[17] at oor furst-boarn sinn,

That trig[18] an snod[19],

Cud yins lek us be onie kin —

Throu’ither, odd?

He heezed[20] his breeks wi seggin[21] hairt,

Fur aye a lad maun leuk tha pairt.

Tha runkles[22] redd[23] wus aa his aim —

An ettlin[24] gran.

Sae boord an airn, straucht oot the’ came

Tae mak tha man.

‘Whit’s thon wee mairks roon here?’ quo he,

‘A’ll thraw tha dial roon nixt me —

A’ve rin ahint masel theday

An cannae wait

Tae footer mair, an sae A may

Caa up tha hait.’

Tha morn wus lown[25], an helt nae dreid.

Nae thocht o hairm wus in ma heid,

Tae on a suddent cum a reek

O scowdert[26] claith;

An och, it wusnae faur tae seek

Whar wus tha skaith[27].

Tha brenk-new breeks, A dae declare,

Wus lettin in tha caller[28] air,

An aa that ye cud dae thenoo

Wus buck thaim oot.

Ma boord forbye wus scaudit[29] throu

Its happin[30] cloot[31].

Sure, weans is gye an dear tae rair;

Ye day an daily han oot mair.

Tha scuddie[32] boord an hurdies[33] maun

Be sind’rie[34] cleed[35],

An yit upo’ tha tither haun,

Ye’ve mooths tae feed.

Tha lirks[36] an runkles, lith an limb,

Tha skin or claes on her or him.

Tha leg o boord or leg o man

Gae aft ajee[37];

An jist tha boord — nae ither — can

Recycle’t be.

Wi boord pit up, an airn het,

An sark spreed oot, tae wark A set.

Tha furst skliff[38] brocht a michtie creck

An aathin cowped.

An, leddy-like, sayes I, ‘O heck’,

An beckwarts lowped.

Tha coggle’t[39] boord, aa on tha sklent[40],

Wud pit in mine a doiter’d[41] gent;

Tae taak o thon, in comes ma man,

Wi paircel tape,

An sayes, ‘Tha metter’s noo in han;

All mak it shape’.

Sae, sticky tape lapt roon an roon,

Tha stan wus gart tae ‘stan tha stoon’,

An beck tae wark tha boord wus ‘press’d’.

Tha mair ’twas teugh,

An twathrie sennichts[42] daed its best,

It haed eneugh.

Noo, canny fowk wud tell ye hoo

Tae tryst[43] a boord, an aathin new.

Ye leuk fur fechtin warrior dames

Upo’ tha ‘net’,

An gin ye dinnae mak a hames,

Yer stuff ye’ll get.

A pit ma nummers in tha yoke.

Am waitin fur thae weeminfowk,

Wi kettle ploutin[44] fur thair tay

Upo’ tha hab;

An trimmle least the’ gar[45] me say

All smooth thair wab[46].


[1] foot

[2] wrinkled shirt

[3] bear tha gree: hold first place

[4] sheepish, embarrassed

[5] handtowels

[6] surface, outside of anything

[7] timber

[8] further

[9] scorching

[10] proof

[11] bought

[12] firmly-fixed, stable

[13] stand

[14] wrapping

[15] trusted

[16] palm, hand

[17] took a furtive look

[18] trim

[19] smart

[20] lifted

[21] sinking

[22] wrinkles (in clothes)

[23] cleared

[24] objective

[25] quiet

[26] singed

[27] damage

[28] fresh, cool

[29] scalded

[30] covering

[31] cloth

[32] naked

[33] hips

[34] variously

[35] clothed

[36] wrinkles (in skin)

[37] off the straight, ‘wonky’

[38] swipe

[39] shaky, tottering

[40] on tha sklent: at an angle

[41] confused, witless (generally from old age)

[42] weeks

[43] order in advance

[44] bubbling, boiling

[45] make

[46] This is a play on words. Wab in former days was a length of linen newly woven. Today it is the modern Ulster-Scots translation of ‘web’, meaning the ‘worldwide web’ or the internet.



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