The Lade

Author: James Fenton

Date: 2001

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

James Fenton


Bae Dinsmore’s brig, whar the big watter turned nixt die carry, the lade begun, cut wae spade an sweet tae cairry drivin watter tae the coarnmill an lintmill doon at Killagan. The lade, the leevin hairt o it, run through the worl o thon weetchils’ enless days an enless years, worl an years lang loast. Bae thon wee pappin’s fiels it gaen, wee fiels weel guerded wae fait stane dakes rinnin bak tae guerd as weel the slow, hirded rottin o his blak plums, agane the scholars’ glammin hans. An we thocht o the wie the wee nyir man hae wunthered, jumpin agane aply, whut come o the fait hie coles, swem aff in a babbin ra, the day, jumpin an squaverin, he come aff Bab’s hokin doag a snite wae the blakthoarn. (Weetchils’ ca’in: he wuz whut he wuz.) The furst streetch o the lade, on its sure wie bak tae the big watter; the furst streetchin o a’ we hard o richt an wrang, on wer wie we niver yit thocht whar.

Pooin an pechin thegither wae a’ wer micht, we wun the sloosh up at the furst rin-aff intae the big watter, sennin the watter thuntherin an froathin doon ower the heech roon stanes; cogged it bak a wee; lut it fa agane; an lucked for a troot whuppin an spalterin aboot whun, lake thon, the watterfa turned tae puddles. Lake the wie ye’d whiles fin yin in the wat meeda whar the fahlty broo, fornenst the fa’in face o the bank-fiel, wud brust — o its ain accoard maistly. An it wuz nixt the bank-fiel, tae, whar the lade run grevelly, we sunk the sheets o roosted zinc, hel up wae binged sods an stanes, an taen tae the watter wersels, an swem, or flailed an splashed an spaltered, oanyway. (The wie thon ither thochts, sheddas yit, ra, half-shapit, wur joinin, roon thontim tae, tae flail an spalter aboot somewhur in wer heids, wattin the broos.)

Frae the bank-fiel tae the watterin bay cut ooty the broo behin Bab’s hoose (stannin yit, mair or less, wae the ither yin ower the road, twa crummlin heidstanes), the lade run quaiter, deeper a weethin, whar we sent wer ships a’ roon the worl. Troots hung trimmlin in watter as clear as gless, snigs maistly, for the rail troots wur ower in the big watter whar, owler, we shane mestered the heech airts o gainnlin, dullin an baggin. Big troots swem whiles in the lade, tae, but belly-up an gappin, cairried doon frae abain the brig whun the lint-watter wuz lut aff — near nicht, maistly, men lakin the dark mair nor the licht. But the eels wur big, that come revenish, quait, quick, dark sheddas, whun the herrins wur gutted an renshed bae the stane steps. Thonner, tae, we catched the stricklies an, farder doon, whur the watter run shella ower a stany bottom, the wee sookin-eels, stuck tae the stanes, an — canny, canny, efter the stoon o thon furst sicht! — the bairded grunts. An whur the brenches booed ower the watter, twa fechtin men wud speel up an ower, or swing han-ower-han, tae drap fierce-eed amang trimmlin German soajers; or twa drookit grals wud sprachle up the broo an jook tae dry their claes in the boiler-hoose afore they wur captered an taen in.

Whar the lade gaen unther the road tae Knockahollet, stud the wee shap (a modern bisness, noo) an the proota store (awa, noo): the wee shap, whar we bocht sparklin spaicial (it wuz the wartim) an sweeties (whun we had oany Ds or Es) wae wer twarthy coppers an, afore ower lang, the furst sing’l Wudbins; the proota store, whar the cairted bings o blues an whites wur waled on the chute an bagged in huntherwechts an whar, on wat days, a wheen wud gether, wae iz wuntherin (baith wies, whiles), tae regalate the wies an woes o mankine, frae Killagan tae Spinyorra an bak. Behin the store, the heidrace run tae the coarnmill, baith lang awa, an anither quait streetch brocht the lade unther the Belnaloob road an doon tae the big dam at the lintmill, the yin lang biried, the ither quait this mony years.

The lade’s journey through oor worl (an, we niver jaloozed, through time as weel) wuz gyely ower. By the last sloosh, unther the mill-rodden, it raced an tummled doon the bak-fa, splashin an chitterin an jibblin unther the hingin brenches, tae rin thegither wae the lintmill’s tailrace bak inty the watter it come frae, tae rin on an on through wer shoartenin days, wer quait minin.

Bae Dinsmore’s brig, whar the big watter bens, palin-stabs an barbed wire mark oot whar the lade yince run.

This prose piece, and the following poem by James Fenton are included in his new book “Thonner an Thon: An Ulster-Scots Collection”, published by the Ullans Press.



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