M‘Craidy’s Monkey

Author: William Cromie

Date: 2004

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

William Cromie


It wus a quait sort o a nicht in tha wee pub. Apairt fae tha barman there wus only tha twa M‘Craidy brithers, Rabby an Sammy. They wur sittin at a wee table fernenst tha fire, Rabby wae his bottle o porter an Sammy wae his half yin o whuskey. At their feet lay Tatters, their wee mongrel dug.

Rabby wus merried tae Sarah an they leeved in a wee half-laft hoose at tha fit o tha toon, an his brither Sammy ludged wae them. They wur whut foulk caa’d fairm labourers, bit tae me that wusnae richt, fur they wur weel lairnt in tha waes o tha country. They cud predict tha wather jist bae watchin tha birds an animals an tha maivement o tha tide. Their work went wae tha saisens, knowin whun tae plant, whun tae sow an whun tae hairvest. They went fae fairm tae fairm whaur they snedded dykes, laid hedges an brairded tha holes in them. They dug drains, cleaned sheughs an sunk wals. Scalin wrack an dung ivver tha fiels as fertiliser wus anither job they din.

Sumtimes, as weel as tha wheen shillin they got, tha oul fairmer wudda gin them an al hen that wus past layin, or a wee gender tae fatten fur Christmas — aye, an even tha croul o a pig litter that they cud reer an sell tae a dailer. Tha boather wus, tha pair o them wus that fand o animals, an whun tha time come they cudnae pairt wae them. As a result o this, their back gairden wus foo o an assoartment o banties, hens, geese — aye, an even an al sookin pig at times.

This perticler nicht they wur injoyin their drink an tha hait o lha fire whun tha bar daur appened an in walked a boadie caa’d Gunyin. He wus a merchant seaman an wus jist hame fae yin o his reglar trips abroad. He set his oul canvas bag, that hel aa his belangins, doon on tha flair, an ordered a pint fur himself an drinks apiece fur Rabby an Sammy. As he sut yarnin tae tha twa o them, he cud see Rabby skellyin at tha bag, fur ivry noo an again it seemed tae maive. Gunyin nivver lot on, an at last Rabby cud stan it nae langer.

“Ah say, boy,” he says. “There’s sumthin in that oul bag, fur it keeps maivin. It luks like a rat his got intae it.”

Gunyin laughed as he reached intae tha bag. He rummaged aboot an tha nixt thing pooed oot a wee monkey! Weel, Rabby an Sammy near fell aff their chairs whun they seen it; they cud harly believe their een. Noo, ye know tha wae they say animals can tell kindness in foulk: weel this wee thing lit claen on tae Rabby’s knee, hel oot its wee hands, lukked up at his face an started tae chitter.

“What dis it want?” asked Rabby.

“It wants a bite tae eat,” says Gunyin, reaching him a hanfa o nuts uot o his poaket.

As they watched it eatin, wee Sammy asked if it wud like a drap o whuskey. Gunyin toul them nivver tae gae it oany alcohol fur it wud make it gan clean mad an bite foulk. Tha en result here wus, whun Gunyin went hame he had an extra twa or three poun in his poaket an the twa brithers had tha monkey.

Whun they went intae tha hoose Sarah wus daein a bit o dairnin. Whun she seen tha monkey she near couped aff tha chair.

“Whaur in tha name o heavens did ye git that thing?” she asked Rabby.

Tha only ither time she had seen ocht like it wus whun tha oul organ grinder usetae come roon tha toon, an whun he played tha organ, his yin went roon wae a wee tin cup an collected money. Rabby toul her tha story aboot tha monkey an that it belanged tae them noo. She knew there wus nae sense in argyin wae him; it wud jist hiddae be kept wae tha ither menagerie that wus rinnin aboot tha hoose an gairden.

Tha monkey wus soon a common sicht roon tha country. Ivrywhaur that tha twa brithers went tha monkey wus wae them, sittin on their shoothers if they were walking, or on tha hannelbars o tha bike if they were ridin them. They wudda sometimes tuk it on tha bus whun they were gan tae Newton. Whun they wur working in tha fiels it wudda been tied wae a length o rape tae a bush, an it played aboot tha dyke wae tha oul dug.

Tae them twa oul men it wus jist like tha wain they nivver had, an they usetae teach it tae dae wee tricks. Ootside their front daur they fixed a pipe tae tha wall wae a wee iron ring roon it. They wudda tethered tha monkey tae this; then it wud clim up tha pipe an play aboot tha roof.

Sarah usetae luk foart tae Setterday, fur that wus whun tha Sunday schuil trips come tae tha toon an there wudda been hunners o foulk aboot tha place an they wudda got tae hear aboot tha monkey an come doon tha street tae see it. Sarah pit a wee dress an bonnet on it an set it on a stool at tha daur wae a tin cup in front o it, an tha waens threw a wheen o coppers intae it. Bit they wur aye warned no tae gan too close tae it, fur it wud try tae bite them.

Yin simmer’s evening twa local boys wur gan by Sarah’s hoose. They lukked in tha daur an seen tha monkey: it wus tethered tae tha crook, sittin eatin an epple. Noo in them hooses, tha front an bak daurs were in line, an they cud see Sarah in tha yerd. She had a bath set across twa chairs an wus scrubbing a shirt on tha weshbairds. Sarah seen them an toul them tae come on in, an that Rabby an Sammy wud be in shoartly. The twa o them went in, sut doon an started tae play wae tha monkey.

Noo, thon pair wair aye up tae a bit o devilment, an, keeping an e’e on Sarah, yin o them reached intae his poaket an pult oot a half bottle o stuff ca’ad cherry brandy. They pit a wee drap intae a sasser an gin it tae tha monkey. Tha wee thing lukked at it fur a meenit, an then started tae lap it up. Whun it had finished, it started tae chitter, so they gin it a drap mair, an this wus soon drunk. Tha nixt thing, tha monkey lot a scraich oot o it an started tae rool aboot tha flair.

Sarah heerd tha noise an run in yellin, “Ah say, boys, whut air yis daein tae tha wee thing?”

Weel, whun tha monkey heerd her yellin, it tuk a jump in tha air, brauk tha tether an lit on Sarah’s bak, an catched her bae tha hair an bit her ear as weel. Tha meenit this happened Sarah started tae squeal, an tha monkey, it scraiched even harder. Whun tha twa boys seen whut wus happenin they run oot tha daur an tha monkey flew efter them. Yince it cleared tha daur it made fur tha only place it knew: up tha pipe an on tae tha roof.

Bae this time a wheen o tha neibers heerd tha noaration an come oot tae see whut wus gan on. Tha word soon got aboot an it wusnae lang tae half tha toon wus on tha ither side o tha street waatchin tha antics o tha monkey laipin aboot tha roof. Bae this time, word had been got tae Rabby an Sammy in tha pub. They run doon tha street an tried tae get tha thing aff tha roof, bit it wudnae come near them.

Tha nixt yins on tha scene wus twa men fae further doon tha street, Bob an Cherlie. They had shotguns apiece an said they wud hae nae boather getting tha monkey doon. Weel, a hale row erupted then, fur thon twa oul men wurnae gan tae let their wee pet be shot.

While tha foulk wur watchin this carry on, a big lood voice suddenly yelled, “What’s gan on here?” A wheen o them lukked roon, an there stud tha local Bobby fae tha berricks in Greba.

Rabby an Sammy toul him aboot tha monkey an hoo they cudnae get it doon on account o tha noise. Tha constable soon maived tha foulk oot o tha road, an efter a bit o boather they got tha monkey intae tha hoose an got tha doctor roon tae hae a luk at Sarah. Yince this wus aa soarted oot, tha constable explained tae tha twa brithers that they wudnae be able tae keep tha monkey as it wus gittin too dangerous. So arrangements were made an tha monkey wus tak tae tha zoo.

Noo it near brauk thon twa oul fellas’ hairts whun tha keepers tuk it awa; an they cuddnae even bring themsells tae gan an see it, the mair they were toul they cud come onnytime.

That wus tha last that wus seen o tha monkey, an tha toon soon settled tae normality again. Rabby, Sammy an Sarah air lang deed noo, an them al hooses air aa pooed doon. Still efter aa this time, whun folk air sittin in tha pub taakin aboot tha oul times, somebuddy is share tae mention M‘Craidy’s Monkey.



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