Gie us the day

Author: Thomas Finegan

Date: 1995

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 3 Spring 1995

Roon twa hunner yaird fae the inlat o the harbour the lichts o the fäshin boáts wus glentin abune the siller sey. A wee bummin o the motors wus curmurin alang wi the lapper o the water, an quhiles ye cud a heerd wey-aff taak o the fishermen gulderin fae yin boat tae ither. On the shore-heid, a wheen o boys wus stuid roon waitin on the boáts comin in. Oul boys owre waik noo-a-days for pu’in onie nets ettlet tae mind yairns o big caitches o days lang syne. Sarkless weans, wi nae enn o go in them, huntit ilkither in an oot th’u roon-shoulert men. Yin wee fella run intil an oul crabbit mon quha cursit him an toul him tae gang hame. The cheeky wee skitter gaes “Awa hame yersel”, an gien a lauch quhan the oul fella made tae gie him a cloot an missed.

“Ha aa — hu-huh-hoo”. A babbin leich lauch cut th’u the nicht. Twa big lasses, wi poother-bue tap coáts on, at wus aa the colour there wus on the quay, hoochit at the dirty jokes o a graisy blak-heidit fella in a grey flannel suit.

“Ye heerd the yin aboot the bischop an the chaummer-maid?” He hung owre the lasses, cocky-like.

“Shut yer bake, Jamie Rea! A dinnae want nae mair o yer oul dirty taak”. Scho wus eggin him on bot, rather nor barge-in. A wee urchin, yin leg o his breeks langer nor the ither, run owre til them on wee skinny shanks.

“Boot ye, Maggie daes yer ma ken ye’re oot?” The lass gien him the coul-shouler wi a pou o her coat aboot her as scho turned awa. Doon the Shore Raa cum the dairk green trucks o the herrin-hawkers. Rubber tyres hissed alang the tap o the concrate quay, an pu’ed up aside the lasses. The duir o the first yin aped, an a young fella gat oot stiff. He begun tae rub his hunkers. “Ma shanks is bluidy crampit”, he yappit at the driver at wus hid yit in the dairk o the cab. Stretchin his airms oot cross-like, his mooth gaped lang wi a twistit yawn.

“Boys-a-Dear A’m wabbit”, airms drappin doon tae his side “th’ee nichts wi’oot a sleep is owre ocht”. A feg-bax flaishit in the muinlicht an he lit a feg nervy-like.

“The no in yit?” he cried on some o the men.

“A dinnae think sae, Tam. The luk tae be fishin awa, bot the cud dae wi gettin bak gif the dinnae want tae miss the tide”.

“Ye lukin a mak yer fortune the nicht, Tam?” mockit yin o the men.

“Fortune ma airse!” he snappit. His bake haed a luk on it like he wus past it, — like a bodie wrainged an no fit tae answer bak.

“Yis’d think wi the way yis taak at its aa roses an honey for fowks like me, Dear bot ye taak naethin ava bot blethers quhan yis gae on aboot makin fortunes. Hunners o bluidy daeins cud happen afore A mak big siller oot o the fäshin. A cud miss the market. The herrin cud gae aff. A cud hae a braakdoon. The bluidy dailers cud cut — Ach thar’s nae uise o taakin; yis dinnae ken ocht aboot it”.

He tuk wile dregs on his feg, glaurin across the water at the fäshin boats dour an dumb.

“Here the cum noo!” Aabodie made a shift doon near the pier-en. In cum the first boat til the harbour cuttin a big white V in the water. “Onie herrin boys?” goes this voice fae the quay.

“Eneuch for yer braakfist” cum the answer wi a lauch “roon twonnie maze”. That wairmit up the interest o the men on the quay.

“Twonnie maze — A toul ye the fäshin’d be guid the nicht”.

“Gif ye cannae caitch onie herrin on a nicht like this ye may gie it aa up”.

The mottor o the boat stutterit tae a stap as scho driftit fornent the quay wa, the water teuch-teuchin agin her timmers. A raip shut th’u the muinlicht like a snake, up til a mon stuid bi the iron railins. “Richt” he ses wi a shairp tung, taks houl o the raip an ties it roon the rustie railin quäck. Twa o the crew gien thairsels a heft up, haun owre haun. Pauchlin roon in thair aakard muckle oilskins ye cud a taen them for statues graven fae dairk granite.

In the boat the ithers o the crew begun tae sairt oot the tang’lt fäshin gear, wi thair muckle oilcoáts craikin whan the wrocht. The hawker wus doon on his hunkers at the edge o the quay.

“Twonnie-five bab, Billy, quhit dae ye say, wud it be onie guid til ye” he ast.

“Thrittie” cum the shairt answer.

“Boys bot you hae chaingit yer tune, hae ye no? Twonnie-five wos aa the were last nicht”.

“This nichts no last nicht”.

“Twa an a hauf dizins the money. Ye can tak it or lee it. A can aye sen’ them tae Bilfawst”.

The hawker wus keen tae get the fäsh as chaip as cud be, for the coast o the cetch fae the first boát sets the price o herrins for the hail nicht. Yer fäshers bot, haes wits strung heich frae daein his darg oot in the wile tummlin wänther seys, an isnae aisy mate for oniebodie.

“A’ll tell ye quhit A’ll dae. A’ll gie ye twonnie-sax schillins. Thons a guid dale noo. Leeve an lut leeve” the hawker whänged. Ther wus a mutterin collogue in the boat.

“Its nae guid ava” the fäsher cum bak wi efther a wee. “Ye can hae them for twonnie-echt an a tanner. Gin ye dinnae like it, ye can awa tae hell heid first”.

The hawker seein the set of the fäsher, pu’d hissel up straucht, pluckit the craises o his breeks, a wee smile o unnerstaunin on him.

“Ye’re a haird mon, Billy. Aa richt — th’ow them up!”

The enns o the nets wus th’owed up til the twa fishermen on the quay. Staunin at ilk corner the stairtit pu’in the tremmlin meshin up on the quay wa.

As the nets quivert up fae the boat, the herrins, fechtin spairks o siller, was grabbed bi the fishermen an flung bak intil the boat. Herrin scales stuck til the mens wet oilskins like luminous confetti. On the pile o fish a near-deid herrin slappit its last tail agin the slimey bodies o its deid freens, slud owre them, an stapt still.

Quhan the nets wus pileit on the quay, the herrins lay a shinin haip in the dairk at the bottom o the boát.

“Jackie, awa an bring us some baxes, hae”. The hawker cried on yin o his drivers. A driver run owre frae the trucks, a bax loopit bi ilk airm.

“Thar yis go, ma lads, guid on ye”. The driver gien a bricht smile whan he slud the baxes doon the wa til the waitin fäshers. Haundie fing’rs begun coontin oot the herrins intil the baxes.

“Twa an twonnie, th’ee an twonnie”, ilk mon pittin his th’ee fäsh ontae the nummer ca’d oot last, “a hunner an twonnie, a hunner an twonnie twa, the herrin a cast, a fäsh !” The wurd fäsh wus aye moothed oot in triumph bi the mon at daen the last coont, like the magic wurd in a weans rhyme quhilk brung wi it the destinie o bein ‘oot’.

Noo the ither boats wus alang the quay wa, as thair caitches wus gettin baxed bi fevert hauns. Thar wus a prood swagger in the fäshers waak when the went th’u the rest o the fowk. The haed daen a big caitch the nicht. Pouerfu’ fishin. An a guid catch wus the maisure o hoo able thair wrocht wus.

The haed the bearin a prood men wi a haird days darg daen weel. Quhan the baxes wus fu, echoes fae shairp hemmer blaws knockin the nails hame run roon the quay. The trucks, packit squar wi fu baxes, wus crankit intae a hum bi the drivers — aa lukin for tae catch the city merkets. Duirs wus slammin. Quäck guid nichts.

“See ye the-morra nicht”.

“Guid on ye Jackie; see ye the neist time I’m lukin at ye!”

The trucks moved aff, bue oily reek boakin oot fae the exhausts. The fowks dannert aff up the raa slow tae hame, taakin on the nichts fäshin.

“Oniehoo, as guid a nichts fäshin as A mind”.

“Ay, thon’s some boat o Pettie John’s. Gif thars herrin on the go, scho’ll get tham”.

“Ach bot the maist o it wull jist wend in at the Anchor the-morra nicht”.

“Deed, ay. Thonder’s the enn o maist o the fäshin”.

Quhan the went past the white-washt dwallin hoose quhare Johnnie Dakin, the oulest fäsher in the toon, lay deein, a quiet settlet in on tham, like a hielann clood.

“Puir oul Johnnie’ll no be thinkin on the fäshin the-nicht”; yin o tham ses in a laich voice.

“Na. A heerd tell he’s far th’u”.

“Ay. Hes jist a-waitin on noo. Dear lo’e him an hae mercie on him. He wus yin guid oul sowl, Johnnie”.

Doon the hoose, the chaummer lichtit wi a reek-markit lamp at th’ew shaddaes in the neuks, Johnny Dakin lay waitin on deein. His adams-aipple shuik whan he made tae swallae. His breist shuik whan he tuk a breath, an gien it oot agane wi a whussle. A thoom an skinny fing’rs scrabbit an claw’t waiklike at a loose th’eid in the quilt. He wusnae shavit this twa-th’ee days, an the mingin baird, swaitin an clartit wi breid crooms, made him luk waur nor he wus, an brung oot the dairk hollaes unner his een.

Anither roon o couchin shuik his breist, heckle babbit oot his mooth, an baids o swate cum oot on his foreheid. His hecklet thrapple gart him taak waik an waterie: “Nan, Nan, ye thar?”

A wee hen o a wumman wi a ticht bake cum quäck in the chaummer.

“Quhits wrang, Da? Ye haen a wee turn agane?”

Leant owre him, scho dichtit his mooth an heid wi a damp claith.

“Thar ye go, is that onie better noo?”

Fause hairtie taak, her een scarit bi the sicht o death cumin an nae stappin it. Scho gawkit doon on her deein daddie. He turnt roon in the bed with a waik moan. His huskie voice cum muffled th’oo the bedclaes:

“Is he no bak yit? Quhit’s keepin him? Mon Abune bot his takin owre laing tae run doon til the quay!”

“Thar, thar noo”, the wumman goes “He’ll no be lang noo. Try an get a wee slaip”.

He niver answert. The wumman’s wabbit een luks on the hump unner the quilt, jist a wee minute tae scho seen it move, an than tip-taed oot the duir an shut it ahint her.

“Quhit a notion” scho muttered til hersel quhan scho gaed doonstairs. “Criein for a fresh herrin aa day, an him no cuttin mate or drink this three days”.

Scho sut hersel doon agin the ing’l, quiet-like, keepin her lug oot for anither waik caa frae abune.

A knock on the duir.

Saft, sae as no tae gie onie upset upstairs, scho lat the cleek aff. The wumman aped the duir a wee.

“Cum on in” scho ses, wi’oot takin a luk.

A wee fella aboot twal slud roon her intil the kitchin.

“A niver gat yin, Nance, the’re aa aff tae Bilfawst”. Unner his straiglin forelocks the wean lukit doon in the mooth. He ranner’t on.

“Pettie Mullin toul me as Big Eddit haed a hunner on sale. Quhan A foon him bot he haed them soull til this wumman fae up the kintra … The boat’s aa daen muckle shots the nicht” he ses, lukin tae gie her some consolin, “a hunner an fiftie maze aa tollt”.

The wumman gawkt aa roon the room at naethin ava. Her een fixt on the Saicer’t Hairt pitcher abune the fireboard, an babbit wi the luk o a crithur loast.

“A hunner an fiftie maze” scho mummelt. The wee fella thocht scho wus for lauchin.

Thomas Finegan

• • • • •

Oul Saws

Staun atweesht twa stools an yer sure tae faa tae the flure.

Them at haes nae coo can loss nae coo.



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