Fawr Saisons

Author: William Davidson

Date: 2004

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

William Davidson


Funny hoo things kin aalter in yin year. Shay tried tae think noo o tha furst taim shay seen im, o aa tha taims shay seen im. Shay went ower an ower thim in hir heid, couldnae think aboot ocht else.

Shay’d leeved in tha fermhoose fur echt year noo. It stud at yin side o a cassey, wi three wee twa-roomed dwellin hooses on tha ither side. Shay wuz boorn in yin o them hooses an had crossed tha cassey tae become Mrs Rab Cammell whun shay wuz juist saxteen year oul. He wuz thurtie year ouler than hir. Eh’d hired hir as a servant lass efter ehs furst wife deid. Eh had nae weans, but eh needed someboady tae redd up aroon tha hoose, maak ehs meat, whiles milk tha coos. Kate McCairtney wuz a tahl, weel-luckin hizzie wi lang fair hair.

Weel onywye, yin dark foresupper shay wuz milkin whun eh come tae tha byre door, stud waatchin hir fur a wee while, then stepped in, grupped houl o hir an putt oot tha licht. A wheen o months efterwaards they wor mairried an tha wean wuz boorn no lang efter. In tha en shay wuz gled, fur hir folk had nithin an eh didnae hit tae mairry hir. Echt years on shay wuz an oul mairried wumman o twunty fawr, wi three mair weans rinnin roon hir aankles.


It wuz that day in tha middle of Febrie whun tha sin casts a gowlden licht ower ivrythin, whun ye finly feel that wunter’s gyely ower. Shay wuz in tha baak scullery wi hir wee sister waashin claes. Eh waaked doon tha baak gairden pad, bareheided, a shotgun slung ower ehs shuther, turned ehs heid, tuk a quick luk in tha aapen door, then waaked on. “Wha’s that?” “Och, it’s Joe Craffert frae tha Glenheid,” siz tha wee sister. “Eh’s da’s tha gamekeeper. Eh’s likely come doon tae gaa oot fur a shot wi oor Davie.”

Shay feelt uneasy, but couldnae a sid why. Mebbe it wuz tha spring air, that freshness that maaks beese brack doon oothoose doors tae escape fae their wunter quarters. Shay didnae see im agane fur a wee while. Yin mournin shay wuz crossin tha cassey cairryin a tin bath fou o peats. Tha peats wor hard, blaak an heavy. Tha hannels started tae slip oot o hir hans. Eh come up behin hir an slung yin earm unner tha bath an grupped tha ither hannel ower tha tap o hir han. Eh lifted up tha bath an shay puhled oot hir han, jooked doon an stepped oot tae tha side. They lucked at each ither fur twa seccons, then eh waaked in tae tha hoose. “Juist lee it doon beside tha stove,” siz she, an eh waaked baak oot tha door.

Shay went doon intae tha scullery. Shay fun that shay wuz trimmelin. Shay grupped tha edge o tha big enamel sink wi baith hir hans an feelt hir hairt thumpin sae lood shay thocht it wud brust. That nicht shay lucked at hir man as eh sut eatin ehs meat. Eh wuz grey-heided, rid-faced, an bits o prita drapped oot o ehs mooth baak on tae tha plate. Whun eh finished eh cleaned ehs mooth wi tha baak o ehs han. As shay stud waashin tha dishes shay feelt a tear tin doon an faa wi a plap intae tha dirrty dish watter.


Simmer come in. Gress an weeds sprooted dark green in ruch gairdens. Beese streetched oot at tha baak o field dykes. Stour blew in nerra loanins. Tha air wuz fou o tha smell o new-maaed hye an big troots lay droosy in shella burns an ye cud reach doon an ginnel them oot wi yir hans.

Rab Cammell sut on an oothoose step sherpnin scythe an reaper bleds. Whun eh finished ehs aleiven a clock tay eh sez tae ehs wife, “Ah hae trysted Joe Craffert tae cut a week’s peats if tha wather steys guid, an ah want ye tae gaa up tha morra an wheel tae im.” Siz she, “An hoo am ah supposed tae wheel peats whun ah hae fawr wee weans tae luk efter. Ah canny bay in twa plices at yinst.” Siz he, “Ah hae axed your Maagie tae min tha weans an ah hae promaced Joe’s feyther tae gie im work tae keep im fae skungin aroon tha country daein nithin.” “Weel, ye micht a thocht o axin me furst,” shay shouted at ehs baak as eh went oot tha door.

Shay sut doon an putt hir heid in hir hans. Shay wuz gaain tae hit tae spen, no juist yin day, but a hale week, wi im in tha moss — a hale week on their ain.

Shay set oot tha nixt mournin at half echt cairryin a baag o meat an waaked up tha road, then alang tha ruch hill loanin intae tha moss. Eh wuz there already. Eh had a big whaak o baank paired an wuz cuttin an wheelin tae ehs sel. A peat fire burned on tha grun. They sid little as eh cut tha furst borra. Eh seen shay wuz gettin her fill o it wheelin tha furst yin oot, an putt less on tha nixt taim. “Ah dinny want tae gie ye a killin,” eh sid, smilin whun eh seen hir luckin at tha wee-er load.

At taytime on tha furst day eh seen shay’d skinned twa o hir fing’rs. Ehs shirt wuz tore at tha elba an eh ripped it aff an cut it intae stripes. Then eh tuk hir han in ehs ain, wun tha stripes aroon hir fing’rs, tyin them on wi nerraer stripes. “Ye’ll dae better noo,” siz he, ehs blue een smilin, blaak hair faain ontae ehs brew.

In tha evenins, tired an sore as shay wuz, shay fun hirsel luckin forrit tae gaain baak tha nixt day, an mebbe pyed mair attention tae hir appearance than shay usely wudda din. Tha week passed quick, an bay its en they wur taakin an lachin thegither. They wrocht hard. Shay cairried him drinks o watter fae tha spring. At mail taims they lay streetched oot on tha gress, a boul o green hills aa aroon them, tha moss cheepers hoverin an singin in tha clear air, a waarm wun blawin, an blue hills shimmerin in tha distance, wi a splash o sea at their fit, an ayont that tha roon mountains o Cantyre.

Whun shay got hame at tha en o tha week shay tuk tha stripes aff hir fing’rs, but shay didnae throw them oot. Shay waashed an dried them an putt them awa alang wi hir maist private possessions.


Tha seed that’s sa’d in tha spring sproots up an growes in tha simmer an ripens in tha baak en. Joe wrocht tae Rab Cammell in tha moss, in tha hye fiel an then, as tha days shoartened, in tha coarn an prita fiels. It wrocht aroon tae that taim o tha year whun coarn huts stan laik phantoms in fiels on starry Novemmer nichts. An then tha coarn wuz ready fur threshin.

Aa this taim Kate lucked forrit tae seein tha young man, an coonted tha days whun eh wuznae there. If ye had bin waatchin them close ye micht a seen thim exchangin smiles an lucks, an seen thim spennin mair taim workin close thegither. Maist folk notaced nithin, excep mebbe yin boady.

Eh leeved doon tha road fae tha Cammells, a sleekit, gaggin soart o a boy. Ivryboady caaed im tha Bann Eel, becaz eh wuz as slippy as yin. Eh hirpled aboot oan a lame leg that eh wuz supposed tae hae hurt whun eh wuz a wean. Eh wrocht little, trevelled aroon tha hooses luckin fur ehs meat. Eh knowed ivrythin aboot ivryboady, an what eh didnae know eh made up. Fur aa that eh didnae laik tha word turned on him, or bein kep gaain. Eh wudda rared up an miscaad aa aroon im.

Tha day o tha threshin come. Joe wuznae there; ehs feyther needed im fur somethin. At dinner taim aboot fawrteen men sut aroon tha big wudden table. Tha taak come roon tae tha Crafferts an then tae Joe in parteeklar. “Aye,” tha Bann Eel sid atween moothfaas o meat, “eh’s a weel luckin boy Joe. Ah hear eh laiks tha wimmen — an they laik him tae.” An Kate Cammell, poorin oot mair tay, feelt ehs wattery blue een borin intae tha side o hir heid. “Ah hear eh’s comin efter your Maagie, Kate,” siz he, in that gaggin wye o his.

“Ah dinny know ocht aboot that,” siz she. “Ye’d better ax hir.” An wi that shay turned aroon, feelin hairt-seek, tha tears sweemin in hir een.

Tha nixt evenin tha threshin wuz ower. Kate wuz in tha scullery waashin dishes whun Joe come in an stud drinkin a gless o watter. Shay nivir liftit hir heid, but then, as eh turned tae gaa baak oot, shay spoke, hir voice trimmlin. “Ah hear ye’r comin efter oor Maagie.”

Eh juist lucked at hir an sid, “Ye ken fine weel wha ah come tae see.” An wi that eh laid tha baak o ehs han on hir cheek an moved it up an doon, an then started puschin baak tha hair fae hir brew.

Shay juist sid, “Dinny!” an tha door swung aapen an tha Bann Eel shachled in. Tha twa young yins sprung baak.

“Ah juist come in tae get a drink o watter, missus. There’s nae cup at tha spoot,” siz he, luckin thim up an doon, a sleekit smile on ehs lips.


Efter haaleve tha wather broke. Tha wun whussled in tha busches at tha baak o tha hoose, an watter roared doon tha stran at tha front. It wuz tha taim o tha year fur foresupper kaleyeain, whun folk hurkle up closer tae tha fire. Joe didnae come sae much aboot Cammells noo. Eh had nae raison tae; there wuz nithin fur im tae dae.

Ither folk come aboot. Nighbours sut in at nicht. Yin foresupper tha Bann Eel come early. Kate wuz waashin twa o tha weans in front o tha fire, saa eh juist sut in tha chire at tha side o tha stove an sid nithin. Fae taim tae taim eh puhled a sweetie oot o ehs pokit in a hankie an slipped it intae tha corner o ehs mooth. Eh wuz a misrable houn, an eh didnae want tae gie ony tae tha weans.

Shay wuz puttin tha cubs tae bed whun Rab come in, an him an tha ither boy fell tae taakin. Efter a while Cammell passed some remark aboot tha Bann Eel visitin thim wile affen this wather, an then sid, in a jokey wye, “Ah thocht ye’d bay oot rinnin efter wimmen these lang evenins.” Weel, wi that tha Eel got raised, lepp up an made fur tha door.

“Mebbe,” siz he, “it’s better tae hae nae wumman if ye canny luk efter tha yin ye hae.” Then, hirplin across tha cassey, eh ca’d oot ower ehs shuther, “Ye’ll waakin yin mournin an that wumman o yours ill bay awa hence wi Joe Craffert. Saa what dae ye think o that, Mister Rab Cammell?”

Ither men wudda went straicht in an kicked up a trade, but Cammell wuznae that soart o man. Christmas an New Year went bye an tha Bann Eel’s words went roon an roon in ehs heid. Eh thocht hoo ehs wife had aaltered fae tha spring. Eh thocht hoo eh’d got hir in tha furst plice, an hoo eh cud loass hir juist as easy. As shay moved roon tha hoose shay feelt him studyin hir in a wye eh’d nivir done afore. Tha fire kenneled inside im, blezed up, but eh couldnae let it oot.

In Jennyewerry a blawin freeze set in. At baith ens o tha day tha sky wuz straked grey an pink an blue. Yin mournin Cammell come intae tha hoose an sut doon wi a cup o tay “Whaur’s yir ma?” eh siz tae yin o tha weans that wuz rinnin aboot.

“Shay’s oot wi Joe Craffert saain sticks.”

Eh sut stiff fur a while, ehs rid face turnin grey, an then eh riz wi a brenish.

Whun eh got tae tha oothoose they wor haein a rest, sittin taakin, their heids nearly touchin. Whun they seen im they got up. Eh lot a noise oot o him atween a moan an a growl, liftit a pitchfork fae ahin tha door, stepped forrit an driv it intae Joe’s breist, pushin im baak again tha waa. Then, pantin laik a mad dug, eh pued it oot, threw it doon an staagered oot.

Joe slid flet on tha flure. She sut on hir knees, yin leg on ither side o im, slappin ehs breist wi hir hans, tryin tae stap tha flow o blid. Then shay fell tae shakin im, as if shay wuz tryin tae waakin im up fae a deep sleep. But it wuz nae guid: eh wuz deid lang afore tha doctor come. Yin o tha prangs went clean intae ehs hairt. Whun they dragged hir aff im shay wuz clarried in blid fae heid tae fit.

Rab Cammell geen ehs sel up at tha police berricks. They didnae haang im fur what eh’d din — sid eh wuz aff ehs heid an couldnae plead yin wye or tha ither. Eh wudnae see onyboady an barely leeved twa mair year. In a wye it wuz better fur im; a man laik him couldnae a stuck bein shut up fur tha rest o ehs days.

Kate Cammell leeved on fur saxty mair springs an simmers an autumns an wunters. An harly a day went bye that shay didnae think aboot them that wuz gone afore. Shay kepp apert fae ither folk, brocht up hir weans, lucked efter hir granweans. Fae taim tae taim shay brocht oot some stripes cut fae an oul shirt an hel thim up tae hir face. Shay nivir went baak tae tha mountain or tha moss. That taim an place shay kepp, unaaltered, in hir heid an in hir hairt.



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