The Aul’ Hand

Author: Charlie Reynolds

Date: 2004

Source: Ullans: The Magazine for Ulster-Scots, Nummer 9 and 10 Wunter 2004

“Tha Poocher”

Writer with quill

Yin o’ tha scribes o’ tha aul’ Ulster-Scotch tongue frae aroon tha North Antrim borders wha wud hae shoo’d tha maist o’ wit in hes articles wud hae baen a guid man o’ the name o’ John M‘Fall. He leeved afore tha Greit War an’ passed awa’ in the munth o’ January 1913, an’ hes remens ir led tae rest in tha biryin’ grun at Dervock Presbyterian meetin’ hoose in tha toonlan’ o Carncullagh. He wus boarn in his fether’s hoose at Whitehill, Stranocum, an’ wus fir mony a deh the heid mester o’ tha National Schuil at tha Lagge ootside tha wee village o’ Aramoy. He wus weel thocht o’ bae tha hale communitae, wus the precenter in Aramoy Meetin’-Hoose fir a lang nummer o’ years, an’ wus a member o’ tha aul’ Masonic. Whun time permittit he laked tae tempt the salmon in tha famous Bush wae a fly or twa, an’ he wus a member o’ Bellycassle Rifle Club. Forbye he had trevelled tae Ameriky in his time an’ wus weel read an’ a greit man o’ lairin’. At tha time o’ his untimely an’ premeture deth he left a sorrowin’ wife an’ fower yung bairns.

John penned so-ca’ed letters tae baith ‘The Constitution’ an’ ‘The North Antrim Standard’. He rote undther tha nom-de-plume o’ ‘An Aul’ Han’ fir maist weeks frae aboot 1906 tae hes untimely deth in 1913. Tha letters wur aboot jest iverythin’ undther tha sun an’ incloodit things lake coortin’, clockin’ hens, tha price o’ aul’ soos, Perliment, Boords o’ Commission an’ mony ither heppenins frae aroon tha Kingdom o’ Aramoy an’ its borders, as weel as accoonts o’ hes trevels tae Ameriky in 1906.

Noo it’s mae intenshun tae try an’ delicht yer een wae yin ir twa quotes frae tha famous scribblins o’ ‘An Aul’ Han’. Frae yin article aboot shootin’, he rites,

Sur, Dae ye iver shoot ony? Man it’s a gran’ sport; a ye require is a doag, a gun, a license — espechully the license, except ye want tae be nabbed by an excise man. There’s nae want o’ shootin roon here. A dae a wee bit o’ it mysel noo an’ then. Even ye shot naethin’ its fine for the health and appetite. What cood be better than fallin’ in bog-holes an’ shoughs? and then it cultivates ye’r brain faculties in fine stile. If ye happen tae miss an easy shot af coorse ye niver think o’ blamin’ yersel’. Naa! naa! Ether the sin wus in yer een or it wus ower far aff, or some ither tara diddle or ither. A hard a gid joak aboot anither shootin’ man no lang since. He hard o’ a hare that had cum thro’ the toon, an’ sae he oots wae his gun an’ a bag foo o’ catriges, but the hare had skedaddled. Hooiver, he wus in luck, for oot o’ a whin bush spoots a rabbit. Bang went baith barls, but the rabbit went on. They sae he then throw’d the gun frae him, an’ efter the rabbit wae stanes. A hear tha rabbit lucked oot o’ its hole an’ cal’d keek-bo at him. If iver ye hear o’ a wee rabbit gaun on crutches, that’s the yin, for he says he thinks he broak its aff hin leg.

In anither letter he seys,

Here’s anither whun am at it. An’ aul’ Irishwoman in Americky shot a doag that annoyt hir. The owners summonst hir. The magistrates axed hir, Did ye shoot the doag in self-defence? No yer worship. A shot it in the bak’ goin’ ower the fence. She did na jest sae it as polite ither. Weel! weel! March cums but yince a year, an’ doags go.

In anither he taaks aboot tha topic o’ Tramps:

Am near quat ritin’ on the everlastin’ subjec’ o’ tramps, but a canna help tellin’ ye what a notished noa lang since hoo yin o’ these gentry tired o’ life throad awa’ his munny an’ dug a grave an’ lay doon in’t. Nixt mornin’ he wus surprised tae fin himsel’ leevin’! Noo, is this noa a gran’ opertunity tae wurkhoose officials? Jest mak’ ivery tramp dig his ain grave an’ step intae it. There’s jest this difference, hooiver. A wud see that they wurna leevin’ the nixt mornin’, or at leest they wud stie there leevin’ or deid. Whar this particular tramp got ony munny tae thro’ awa’ is what puzzles me.

Aboot his trip tae Ameriky, in yin letter he saes this,

Anither custom they hae there, an’ A think its a sensible yin this. If ye happen tae drap in they dinna rush tae pit on the kettle the wye they dae here. If ye visit at meal times ye get a share, if no ye get naethin’, an’ dinna expect it ether. The Amerikan toons ir laid oot on a far better plan nor oors; straicht streets rinnin’ north an’ south, an’ ithers east an west, sae ye canna loase yersel’. If ye did ye wud be a guid while afore ye were pickt up by the police. They’re noa sae plenty is they ir in oor big toons. There’s noa sae munny skyscrapers in Phila’, tho’ some of the hooses ir sae tall that it wud tak’ twa men an’ a boy tae see the tap. A hae already remarkt that the Ameriky foaks ir very hospitable, an’ is a rule they hae guid manners, but yin thing a notisht an’ that wuz whun foaks wur gettin’ oot o’ bisiness an’ wantin’ hame they crowded intae tramcars regardless o’ whather they wur fu’ or noa. It wuz aye a case o’ the deil tak’ the wakest hinmost. A hae been affen axt hoo A laked the cuntry, but aye say my experience wusna extensive enuch. Ye see A wuz there at the best time o’ the year, what they ca’ the ‘fall’. Nether ower het or ower coul’. It wuz het enuch for me, an’ A wuz gien gled tae sit in mae shart sleeves in the evenins. A wudna ax for a nicer cuntry, but A wud lake tae hae a fair supply o’ the almichty dollar. In that respec’ if yer poakets irna weel lined A wud it wuz a fine place tae leeve oot a.

Aul’ Han’ tak’d aboot The Home Rule Bill in yin o’ his letters. He pit it lake this in a roon aboot wye:

Some week or twa ago Sooth Americky wuz trated tae an’ erthquaick, an’ it wud seem they ir gane roon. An’ noo the Goverment ir providin’ yin for iz in Irelan’ in the shape o’ a modified Home Rule Bill, tae be interduced nixt session.

Noo as weel as hes letters Aul’ Han’ wud gie his reeders a line or twa o’ poot’ry. Sum wur shoart an’ sum wur lang: infect yin wus at the last coont eichteen varses lang — ir wus it seventeen? A’l let yis hear the shoart yin, an’ is they sae it gangs lake this,

A niver had a piece o’ toast,

Particularly lang an’ wide,

But fell upon the dirty flure

An’ aye upon the buttert side.

Noo, A’m gane tae en’ wae a wee bit advice tae a’ nue Assemblie members wha’ wud, as iverboody kent, reed this guid book. This is what the Aul’ Han’ thocht shood happin in a’ Cooncils an’ the lake.

No 1 No’ mair than ten tae speak atwanst. This rool A beleeve is necessary tae gie the chareman a chance tae no’ what it’s aboot.

No 2 Nae member tae insult the chareman mair than three times in yin meetin’.

No 3 A’ bad wurds tae be said in Gaelic, an’ a fine o’ five shillin’s for ivery offense, saim tae go tae oot-doar releef.

No 4 Officials salaries no tae be increest mair than twyst a year.

No 5 Ony members wantin’ tae fecht hez niber maun furst gie he’s fechtin’ wecht tae the chareman, who wull act as referee.

No 6 Members forgettin’ tae bring gas wae them wull get a supply frae listenin’ tae their nibers gassin’.

No 7 The Lokal Govermint ir fools, and ir tae be treeted as such.



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