Bab on Coortin’

Bab M‘Keen

Editor’s note: This article is reproduced from a book containing selected writings that originally appeared in the Ballymena Observer. We reprint below a short excerpt from that book, Bab M‘Keen: The Wit and Wisdom of an Ulster Scot (Ballymena: Mid-Antrim Ulster-Scots Society, 2002), by kind permission of the book’s editor, Jack Adams.


There’s a wye in daein’ things, an’ there’s a time for daein’ things, an’ there maybe nivir was a onythin’ in this wurl that needed tae be mair lucked into accordin’ tae Act o’ Parliamint, than coortin’. This is, maybe, no plain tae money o’ ye, but as I proceed I’ll go on. I made mention, some time ago, aboot Jamie M‘Leester’s coortship, an’ that I might gie ye a screed o’ it in the OBSERVER.

Weel, I hae been thinkin’ that Jamie micht be angry, so I’ll jist come out wi’ a wheen o’ general remarks; but, min’ ye, I dinna mean onythin’ aboot Jamie. The notion o’ coortin’ comes on folk at different ages, an’ unther mony circumstances. I hae noticed it in some wee lasses gien’ early, an’ lang afore their mithers kent much aboot it. But they cudna deceive me lang. I jist cud tell by the turn o’ their een in aboot twa minnits. In general, hooiver, they can keep their ain sacrits aboot this, an’ the langer they rin single ecod they jist git the pawkier.

Noo, it’s a different metther in lumps o’ chaps. They can keep naethin’. They maun blubber out some lock o’ nonsince, an’ gie in their gun withoot a struggle. An if they wud jist tak’ their time a bit, an’ wait, the cherry wud drap intil their mooth without iver havin’ tae pit oot their han’s for it. I ken richtly what am daen’; there’s no a lass in the hale country but’ll be in my hair for this, although they ken as weel as they’re life leevin’ that it’s the hale truth I’m tellin’.

Whun a young fellow tak’s a notion o’ coortin’, he tak’s a notion o’ learnin’ tae play a fiddle, or some ither nonsince. He combs his heed aboot fower times a-day, whaur afore it didna git a clat; houls the luckin-gless close intil his chin tae see if there’s ony appearance o’ a hair comin’ oot, an’ gits rid in the face if ye jist so much speak o’ a lass in his presence. He’ll mair than likely, aboot this time, gang hame wi’ some lass frae the nicht meetin’ an’ no change words wi’ her twice the hale time. An’ then whun he sees her tae the daur, he’ll rin awa’ as if the very auld deil was at his heels, for fear onybody wad see him. I come thro’ the flint mill mysel’ and ken’s a’ aboot it.

Weel, noo, there’s naethin where there’s mair igerance displayed than in coortin’. Coortin’ a lass is jist like trainin’ a young filly. Some o’ thim ye cud jist mak’ dae onythin’ wi’ the cockin’ o’ a kale blade or a wusp o’ hay at their nose, an’ ithers maun git the sweet brok’ on thim afore they’ll gie in that they’re bate. Well, some lasses are jist the same. Sure there’s some o’ them ye cud coort wi’ a blade o’ dulse or a lossenger, an’ ithers that jest cudna be satisfied wi’ rouch country coortin’. O’ the twa gie me the latther, for, luck here, I wadna see yin o’ these lossenger yins in my wye; although I niver saw the lass yit that objected tae a wee birl in modtheration.

But here’s how all the lads mak’ the mistake, they canna wait tae fin’ oot the difference, an’ sometimes the rouch yins gets the lossenger, an’, when she should get the birl, an’ viccey varsa. There’ll naethin’ learn a fella this but experience, an’ when he looses his lass yince or twice for the want o’ keepin’ a ticht grup, he’ll watch what he’s aboot again. There’s naethin’ like takin’ the ba’ at the hap, an’ my advice tae ony o’ ye that’s contemplatin’ merriage — dae it afore the clargy pit on anither half-croon. They mean business, an’ ye may jest as weel hae guid value when it’s goin’.



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