Another Ulster-Scots Writer: John M‘Gimpsey Johnston

Author: John M‘Gimpsey Johnston

Date: 2001

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 8 Hairst 2001

Man at harbour

John M‘Gimpsey Johnston noo leeves in Inglann, but he cums fae Bellyhie (Ballyhay) in tha coontie o Doon. Tha mair he wus aye an Ulstèr-Scot, langelt tae tha pipe banns maist o his days, he whs a gye lang while pairtit fae his ain fowks, an tha wye the taak’t in braid Ulstèr-Scotch. Hooaniver, fur yeirs he has gaithert wurds, an been scrievin awa in Ulstèr-Scotch, tae he foon oot he wusnae on his lane in tha warl. In this Ullans, we hae twathrie o his scrievins — aiblins chaiptèrs fur his autobiography, an aiblins the furst yin o tha like tae be writ in Ulstèr-Scotch? It maun be some toonlann, Bellyhie, fur oor ither writer fae coontie Doon, Hugh Robinson — d’ye hae mind o his buik o shoart stories, “Across the Fields of Yesterday,” — weel he wus reared in Bellyhie forbye! Here ye hae tha furst draft he has pit doon — chaiptèr yin if ye like — jist as he haes it, wi nae changes ava.

John M‘Gimpsey Johnston: Boarn en Bellyhie, Coonty Doon, oan tha 21st. o September, nineteen hunnther aun twunty fower.

This es hoo, accordin tae ma Mither, thaut hir folk, tha McGimpseys cum tae Bellyhie aboot echteen hunnther er shoartly efter.

Aut that time thur wus a chiel caad McGimpsey, cum ower fae Scotlan, et cuda bin fae aboot Eccelfechan, sha wusnae shair; aun bocht ‘Tha Knowe’ en tha toon lan o Bellyhie.

This chiel wus ma Great-graunfaither. A dinnae ken hes first name bit he haud twa sins, John aun Rabert. Thur micht hae bin mair bit thauts aa A iver heert aboot. John wus ma Graunfaither wha A was caad efter aun haud bin boarn aun reart aut ‘Tha Knowe’ like ma Mither aun masel.

A’m jist wunntherin noo ef this chiel wus yin o thae ‘Blakmooths’ thaut A heert cum fae Scotlan aut aboot that time. Tha tale wus thaut thur wus aun affa lauk o folk cummin tae Portpetrick er whauriver, tae git bak ower tae Ulster. Thae haud a terble rauch time o’t aun whiles haud tae leeve oan blakberries tae keep fae stervin. Tha blakberries made thur mooths aa blak, hense tha name.

Anither thing, A aye haud a notian thaut thease folk wur ‘wee frees’ maistly. This wud accoont fer aa ma Ma’s folk bein Plemooth Brethern aun thaut wus jist tha same thing aus thur wusnae a bee’s wing o differs atween thum. Fur, ye ken, A wus reert yin masel, tae A jint tha Boyes Brigade tae larn tae play tha Bagpipes. This wus tha Third Bangor B.B., bit thaut’s anither lang, lang tale.

Whun A wus a waen, en fect up tae A wus a habilty hoy, A wusnae alood tae sing, hum er whussle oan tha Sabbath er A wuda gaut ma lugs boxt. Aun tha bits aun shaen haud tae bi cleant oan Setterty nicht. Bit A dinnae mine tha roosters bein pit unnther a creel oan tha Sabbath like thae wur en sim airts en Scotlan.

Thaut mines ma aboot tha folk oan tha nixt ferm tae ‘Tha Knowe’. Et wus caad ‘Tha Blaeberry Ile’. Oanywey, thur wus Mistrus Keag aun thie dauchters aun a sin. Thae aa went tae Bellygrainey meetin hoose twise ivery Sabbath aun thaut wus aut laste thie mile aun thae haud tae fit ivery step acause Mistrus Keag wudnae laut Wullie yauke tha pownie en tha trap oan tha Sabbath. A’m shair hir rooster wus unnther a creel!

A thocht A wud jist tell ye whur Bellyhie es, aun simthin aboot et, aun ‘Tha Knowe’ aus weel. Tha toonlan o Bellyhie les oan tha Moass Road, thaut rins fae Newtonairds tae Donaghadee, aun streeches fae Boal’s Roadenns tae Gray’s Roadenns. Gaun fae Newton nixt ‘Tha Dee’ aus et wus caad, Bellyhie es oan tha left haun side aun Killaughey oan tha richt. ‘Tha Knowe’ whur A wus boarn es aboot hauf wey alang, aun et’s exectly a mile fae Boal’s Roadenns entae tha close.

A ken hoo fur et es exectly acause thur wus a Mister Mawhunnyae fae Bilfaust thaut ma Faither din bits o ingineerin wark fer, wha misurt hoo fur et wus wae hes motor caur yinse.

‘Tha Knowe’ wus jist a wee ferm, a bit unnther twunty acre. Tha maist o tha ferms roon aboot wus aboot tha same, maybe a weethin bigger, sim o thum.

Ma Graunfaither’s brither Rabert haud a ferm in Bellyhie aus weel. A niver heerd hoo he cum bi et, whuther tha chiel fae Ecclefechan, er wur iver, haud bocht twa ferms, aun gean this yin tae hes ither sin Rabert, A dinnae ken. Hooiver, bi tha time A cum alang et wus tha chiel’s graundochter Cessie aun hir maun Wullie M‘Briar thaut haud et.

This place wus a bit further doon tha Moass Road nixt tha Dee aun awa doon tha new line ayount tha gullit, near intae tha boag. Jist bi this a weethin, A mine Wullie Reid gettin a big hut oan iren wheels. This luckit jist tha same aus tha yin thaut tha toon coonty coouncil’s road men yased tae stie en, aus wus towed ahint tha steam rauller.

Thur wus a wee bit o grun jist aut tha side o tha boag whur he pit this hut. Hooiver fer yin raesin er anither Wullie dug holes, tae sink tha wheels doon sae tha flair wus near grun level. Tha anly ither buddy thaut leevt awa en heer wus a wummaun caad Annie Grimes, wha wus a sister o ma mate Jimmy Kirk’s mither thaut leevt oan a wee ferm thaut marchit ‘Tha Knowe’ nixt tha Dee. Thur wull bi mair aboot tha Kirks whun A git roon tae’t.

A thucht A wud bi aus weel tae mak et cleer thaut thur wur mair folk thaun McGimpsey’s leevt en Bellyhie aut tha time. Ye wull heer aboot tha maist o tha ither yins en due caurse.

A bit ago A mentiont tha Plemooth Brethern, weel thae aa went tae a wee meetin hoose doon near Gray’s Roadenns. Et wus kent aus Bellyhie Gospel Haa. Thaut’s whur A went tae tha Sabbath Schuil aun larnt nae a heep. Ma ain faut acaurse.

Tha maist o tha men thaut preecht en’t wur fae roon aboot. Wullie M‘Briar yaest tae preech thur betimes. He wus a big maun aun whun he gaut waurmed up he yaest tae cum doon oan tha wuden pulpit wae sich a thump o hes big fist. He near scauret tha wuts oot o ma betimes. Acause tha hale place shuk aun A wus shair et wus gaun tae bi doon roon oor lugs. Et wus jist timmer aun corrigated iren ye ken.

Tha thing es, Wullie haud aun aul carnaptious meer thaut wus a deevil tae git yauket. Simtimes thae haud tae pit a touch oan hir tae keep hir quate tae thae gaut tha herness oan hir bak. Simtimes Wullie gaut thaut maud he staurtet tae sweer. A wus surpriset he kent tha wurds bit he cud manage richtly wae tha wheen he haud whun thae wur needit.

Bi tha wey, a touch es a bit o a shaft aboot echteen inches er twa fit lang wi a hole thru yin enn aun a bit o fine raip er guid hefty coard thru et, tae mak a loup big enouch tae gan ower tha hoarse’s muzzle. Tha shaft wus twustet tae tichten tha loup aun aus sin aus tha hoarse feelt et gettin ticht, et jist stud studdy fer sim raesin. Et wusnae hurt ava.



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