A Crack about Gowf

Author: Duffer Geordie

Date: 1998

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 6 Simmer 1998

A Crack about Gowf

DUFFER GEORDIE — Published in the County Down Spectator, 3 June 1904

Dae ye know bit A hae been clean deeved for a guid while noo wae aw the talk aboot this new game they hae sterted amang us. The fowk tell me that for aw it’s a new thing wae us, its a gie ould game aw the same; an’ A mak’ nae doot o’ that for A hae been telt that Adam an’ Eve whiled awa’ the lang ’oors in the Gerden o’ Eden skelpin’ a wee bit ba’. Bit A hae ma doots aboot this, for the Scripter tells us naethin’ aboot Gowf bin played in them early days. Be that as it may, noo that it has catched on here it has created a wunderfu’ din o’ exceetment amangst baith ould an’ young. A min’ the time whun ye cud get a go o’ water frae the burn, or an erran’ rin wae yin o’ the waens o’ the place, bit noo it’s gang yersel’ or want, for there’s nae yin wae breeks on that isnae earnin’ big money carryin’ a bag fu’ o’ sticks, lang an’ short, o’ aw shapes an’ sizes, fur the looney buddies that partak’ in the game.

The first thing I kent aboot it wus yin nicht in the early pert o’ last year, whun three dacent-lukin’ an’ ceevil-spoken men knockit at ma door an’ axed me wud A sell ma lan’. A telt him A hed nae thocht o’ the sort: fur aw that, A wudnae be a bit backward in sellin’ if A cud get a guid price. “An,” sez I, “fur what wud ye be wantin’ my bit grun’?” Yin o’ the men wae goold glasses, caw’d Doran, spawk up an’ quo’ he: “We’er jist takin’ ower a guid wheen o’ fields frae yer neighbours tae apen a gowf coorse.” Sez I, “An’ what micht that be, beggin’ yer pardon fur ma ignerance?” “O," sez he, quite pleasant like, “it’s a new game that we’er stertin’ in the neighbourhood.” Wae that A lukit at him gie sherp like, fur A thocht he was takin’ a han’ oot o’ an ould man, or else that the asylum wus ower fu’ an’ they had let him oot, seein’ that he wus a hermless buddy.

He lauched gie herty whun he saw the luk A geen him, an’ sez he: “Dinnae think A’m aff ma heid or that A’m jokin’ wae ye, fur A’m in dead earnest.”

He then telt me that John M‘Meekan wus the heid o’ the concern, an’ geen me a wheen ither names that A kent weel enough; so A begun tae think that the hale community had gone daft. So sez I, “Hoo much grun’ wud ye be wanting aw thegither?” Tae this he replied aff han’, “Oh, aboot saventy or aichty acres thereaboots.”

It bate me tae unnerstan’ hoo they cud work wae sae muckle lan’. He then beguid tae tell me aw aboot the game; an’ tae pit a lang story short, oor crack wun’ up in their takin’ ma three wee fields, an’ richt an’ dacent did they trate me, specially the Doran buddy.

The nixt thing A knowed wus a hale ermy o’ men, wae picks, speds, shovels, an’ barrows parin’ doon hedges, cleanin’ oot dykes, cuttin’ gress, burnin’ whuns, an layin’ doon wae plots o’ fine gress, that A heerd them ca’ “greens”. In a wheen weeks ye end herdly tell the place, it jist lukit like yin big gerden, an’ it must hae cost a pile o’ money tae pit it in sic gran’ order. Day efter day they rowled an’ cut an’ cut an’ rowled the wee patches o’ lawn till it wus as smooth as hans cud mak’ it, an’ A was fairly astonished at the appearance o’ the place; it wuz wunnerfu’.

The ould wife wuz cleen dazed wae the hale thing, an’ still thocht there was somethin’ unco curious aboot it; so we baith watched gie close aw that wus going on.

Yin day sez I tae the ould woman, “Betty, A maun walk ower an’ see hoo they’re gettin’ on in the neighbour fields.” So A grippit an ash plant and walkit straicht ower tae the back o’ the wee hospital; an’ behold ye! they had biggit yen o’ the finest hooses A ever clappit an e’e on. An’ then the thocht cum tae me that some big gintleman wae plenty o’ siller had jist bought up the hale place and wuz gaen tae mak’ his residence here; so A slippit ower tae a weel-made dark fella’ (A heerd them ca’n’ him Mister Shepperd, tho’ who or whut he wus A didnae ken), and sez I, “Wud ye be sae kin’ as tae tell me wha’s biggin’ the fine hoose in such a quiet place?” “Oh,” sez he, quite affable like, wae a smile ower his face, “that’s the club hoose.” A wuz quite dumbfounded, so sez I, “And whae dez it belang tae?” A think he tuk peety on ma ignorance, for he begun tae explain a’ aboot it, and tuk me ower tae the hoose an’ bid me come in tae luk at it. The tradesmen were no’ quite rid o’ the jab, so A didnae see it in a’ its glory; but o’ a’ the places A ever set fut in, it’s the finest hoose A ever lukit at. It’s fit fur a king, an’ A wudnae be a bit surprised tae hear that the King had tuk it fur a Royal Residence.

A big door leads intae a big hall, laid down wae red tiles, as big as a barn; in fact ye cud hae a big dance in it. On the flure there wus a nice piece o’ marble wae some prentin’ on it, an’ no’ haein’ ma glesses wi’ me A thocht it micht be a toombstane, so sez I, “Wud ye kindly read the writin’ on the stane?” So he telt me that it wus the fundation stane, laid by Miss Connor. Withoot a doot this kindly wumman’s finger is in every pie “whaur guid is tae be din.” He then tuk me intae various rooms, an’ A wus clean dazed wae everything A saw. Clocks, chairs, lukin’ glezzes an’ picters galore, geen by yin an’ anither. It wus jist wunnerfu’, the generosity o’ the people. The fowks in the kitchen were gie busy gettin’ mate ready for yin an’ anither, an’ it gae me an appetite, the like o’ which I hadnae for years, jist tae luk at the cleanliness o’ the place an’ get a sniff o’ the steak frizzling on the grid. A just had a luk intae the ladies’ room, as he ca’d it, an’ it wuz a pleasure tae see it; it wus gran’ wae nice curtains and a’ kinds o’ furniture an’ ornaments.

Upstair he showed me a gran’ big billiard table geen tae the club by Miss Connor. It must ’a cost a big penny. He asked me wud A like a game, an’ A thankit him but declined his kindness. He then tuk a lang pointed stick, wae a lether en’ an’ efter rubbin’ it carefully wae nice blue chalk he pit a red ball on the table an’ twa white yins. He make them travel jist whaur he liked. Yin minute he hut them a terble slap, an’ the nixt he jist slid past them, herdly movin’ them ava. It wus jist marvellous tae watch him. A feared A wus takin’ up his time, so A bid him time o’ day, bit no! he wudnae hear tell o’t, so he jist pushed a wee white thing on the wa’, an’ behold ye a nice civil fella’ come loupin’ up the stair an’ axed what A wud like an’ gien me a big choice, but A contented masel’ wae a soup o’ tae. Weel, A thoucht that Betty cud mak’ tae, bit A’m loth tae say that she cudnae touch at the drap A had. The thick crame wus swimmin on the tap, and it wus a clane delight tae drink. A wud suppose that Betty disnae ken how. The bread an’ butter wus that thin that ye cud read a newspaper thro’ it; it wud tak’ a dazen slices tae mak’ a bite. Efter we had finished he axed me wud A like tae see a game o’ gowf played, an A sed A wus curious tae see it, an A wud be obleeged till him if he wud jist show me hoo it wus din. So we clinkit doon the stair an’ oot intae the apen, an’ ma freen’ walkin’ ower tae a wee wooden hoose cum oot wae a bagfu’ o’ curious shapit sticks, brass an’ iron and wood. A thocht till masel’ that A had richt min’ o’ the time whun “shinney” delighted the hearts o’ the fella’s in my early days, whun a weel-beat whun stick an’ a baitered-up tin can were a’ the stock-in-trade needfu’ fur a game.

When he med his appearance there wus a race amang the whops o’ boys fur which o’ them wud carry his bag. While he wus makin’ a selection A jist cast an e’e ower the field, and behold ye there wus a wheen o’ owergrown lasses wae gie short petticoats clootin’ awa’. A wus cleen deeved wae the shoots o’ them, some o’ them makin’ a michty big cloot sendin’ the sods fleein’ aboot them like a shower. When ma freen saw these capers gaen on he roared oot at the tap o’ his voice “Pit back the divits!” This was a foreign tongue tae me, bit it seemed tae hae some effect on the wimen for yin and a’ went ower the grun’ pickin’ up wee bits o’ grass and clay an’ pittin’ them back intae the holes they had made. It seemed tae me that ma freen’ hed gie pooer ower the wimen, fur they just did his biddin’ like a waen. It wus a contrast tae maist men, who hae tae dae jist what the wife bids or take the consequence. “Lang may his pooer continue,” say I. Weel ba this time anither fella’ wae a gie big bag o’ sticks came an’ joined us, an the match begun; and A can assure ye A wus gie interested in the proceedin’s. Ma freen’ pit his han’ intae his pocket an’ pooed oot a wee ba’ no’ as big as a guid banty’s egg, an’ tuk a fistfu’ o’ rid san’ and cockit it on the top. Sez I, “What is he gaen tae dae at a’?” Wae this he tuk a lang wooden mellet an’ pit the head alangside the ba’, an’ then he twusted and squrmed like a tramped worm and geen the ba’ a most tremenjus cloot that sent it wuzzing thro’ the air like a bullet. Thinks A, ma man, A wud sooner see the ba’ git that cloot than me. A wunnered whaur in the name o’ fortune he wud gang tae luk fur it again, but he wusnae a bit disturbed. The tither fella’ went thro’ the same performance, but his ba’ struck a dyke and boonced back. Sez he, “A’m bunkered.” Thinks A, he neednae begin tae sweer sae early in the day. Bit he gruppit a wee iron thing wae a gie short grup, and deng me but he lifted it cleen intae the air ower dyke an’ a’. “That’s the odd,” sez he. “It is odd,” sez I, fur hed it been ma jab A wud jist a cloddit it ower an’ sed naethin’. He then tuk a wudden club, wae a brass sole, that he ca’d a “brassie”, and quivered and wabbled beside the ba’ fur a wheen o’ minutes and wanged it cleen thro’ the air up beside an iron pin stuck in the grun’ in a nice plot o’ green gress. By this time ma guid freen’ had fun’ his ba’, an’ takin’ a wee iron tool he ca’d a “jigger” he labbed the ba’ jist alangside the tother fella. ‘That’s yin aff two,” quo’ he. The swearin’ chap then tuk a straight-shaped iron and struck the ba’ a gie canny cloot, jist by a hole in the grun’. Tho’ he didnae say aucht A cud see it wus a maist profane seelence.

Ma freen’ then tuk a seemilar shapit club an laid his ba’ alangside the bit hole an’ wae anither licht cloot he jist papped it intae the hole an cries oot, “That’s my hole.” It wus for a’ jist like a game o pugs.

Baith o’ them lifted their ba’s an’ walkit ower tae anither wee pletform o’ gress an went through the same capers again biggin’ a wee castle o’ san’ an’ cockin’ the wee ba’ on the tap. It wus a gie comic performance to luk at them; they lukit jist like twa waens. Efter they each had a cloot, awa’ they went tae luk fur the ba’s; bit jist then they spied fower well-dressed men ahead o’ them, an’ they jist had tae wait fur a wheen o’ minutes till they got awa’. Yin o’ the men wus lang and thin, anither wus short and stoot; the twa ither chaps were quaet-looking fella’s. Ma freen’ telt me that it was a foursome match between the Presbyterian meenisters o’ the toon and the Church clargy. The long thin man was the Reverend Peacock and the wee stout yin was the Reverend Hill; the ither twa being the Reverend Campbell and the Reverend Mr Waddell. They a’ lukked gie and freen’ly, lauchin’ an’ jokin’ a’ the time. Thinks I tae masel’ things are gie different noo tae what they used tae be, whun the Church fowk wud hordly luk at the Meetin’ people at a’. Noo the clargy an’ meenisters can play freen’ly games wae yin anither. Lang may this freen’liness continue, say I.

When they had moved on ma freen’ was alangside his ba’, an’ afore lang they baith had fun’ the hole; and so the game went on — first yin clootin’ an’ then anither, frae yin hole tae anither, roon the hale coorse. A cannae forget twa ould men stannin’ on the tap o’ a dyke argeein about the coontin’ o’ their cloots. A didnae get tae ken their names, bit they were gie coorse-tongued, an lukit gie engry. A thocht they wud eat yin anither. So A bid ma freen’s guid evenin’ an tramped ower home tae tell Betty a’ aboot what A had seen.

A fear A hae tuk up a lot o’ yer time wae this crack so A’ll hae tae stap; bit some ither time A’ll tell ye a’ aboot an evenin’ A’m goin’ tae spen’ on the coorse, for A hae gotten a gie hearty invite tae bring Betty alang an’ min’ ye, A intend tae go.

So good-evenin’ tae ye till A see ye again.



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