Author: (Erchie Nuhan)

Date: 2004

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

Erchie Nuhan’

from the Northern Constitution, April 5 1913

Supplied by Charlie Reynolds, Ulster-Scots Researcher

Woman wearing a bonnet

Dear Sur, There’s mony a change since A sa’ ye last, or since ye hard frae me. Av coorse, we leeve in a time o’ changes an’ in a wurl o’ changes. We’re changin’ ivery day; if it’s no yin thing it’s anither. A know for mae ain pairt there’s no’ a day A rise that A’m no’ changin a shillin’ or sixpence for somethin’. Luck at the changes that is in weemen’s claes since you an’ me wur weans, an’ that’s no’ yisterday. In them days weemen wore a petticoat, an apron made oot o’ a bag, a wee shawl tied on their heids, an’ wur maistly barefitted. There wur nae habble skirts then, nane o’ these nerra-heeled shoes, wae ribbed stockins, an’ broad ribbons for laces, an’ twa bows on them. Folk wur far plainer then, an’ they jest got on as weel, an’ put in their bit o’ time as happy whan their feet wur bare an’ broad, an’ as hard as a donkey’s hoof. Ivery time they put their fit doon ye wid h’ard the clap o’it, an’ if the road wuz wat the sparks wur fleein’ ower the hedge. They had nae mudgerds on their legs lake what’s noo-a-days.

A hae min’ o’ yin evenin’ A wus gaun tae see the oul’ woman. Av coorse, hir an’ me wur baith smerter nor what we ir the day, an’ so a tuk up on an’ oul damsel on the road. She had a lassie or twa o’ hir ain, an’, min’ ye, a woman o’ that sort’s no very lang o’ takin’ the mizure o’ a young chap. We got intae conversashun bae hir askin’ me whaur A wuz gaun an’ what A wuz gaun tae dae. Noo, that wuz a very foolish thing in hir, for A didna know maesel what a wuz for daein’. A jest knowed A wuz gaun tae see mae lass. Bit, onyway, she had the bare feet, only a pair o’ stockins wae nae feet in them, an’ ivery noo an’ again ye wid hae hard the rattle lake as if ye had a loose shod on yer boot. At last she noticed me luckin’ at hir feet, an’, sez she

‘What noise wuz that?’

‘A daenae know,’ sez I, ‘unless yer shod’s comin’ aff.’

‘Oh, dear,’ sez she, ‘ye shouldnae mak’ fun o’ an’ oul’ body,’ houlin’ up hir sole. ‘Them’s the first shoes iver A had, an’ they’ll dae me mae day.’ An’, there if they wurna taw oul boot protectors stickin’ in hir heel, an’ she niver knowed.

A wuz aye a wee bit thochlfu’, so A proposed tae pick them oot wae mae knife, an’ A noticed she gaed licht wae the aff hin’ fit efter that. She said if A wud go up tae the hoose she wid boil me an egg, bit A thocht she wuz o’ rether hardy disposition for me tae tackle, so A gaed on mae wye.

Bit speakin’ o’ eggs pits me in min’ o’ last Sunday. Man, that wuz a terrible day on eggs an’ chickens! Iverybody ye sa’ had the weeks o’ their mooth painted a yellow colour, an’ if they had ony hair on their faces ye wid hae seen the remains o’ a chicken sticken’ here an’ there amang the birses.

This min’s me o’ an oul woman an’ hir son Rab, as she ca’d him, that thocht they wid start rearin’ chickens, an’ work themsels up a bit in the wurl. They got a dizzen o’ eggs o’ some spechul breed, an’ bocht a clockin’ hen at big money A jest forget hoo much. The Rab fellow wuz wae the fermers for a while, whaur they used tae rear young pigs, an’, as it’s a country habit tae sit wae a soo an’ pigs (mair for divarshun not ony ither thing, A beleeve) Rab an’ his mother made up their min’s that they wid sit wae the hen. Ivery nicht whan it got dark the lamp wuz lichted an’ left in wae the hen, an’ the oul woman an’ Rab wid walk oot an’ in their stockin’ feet for fear o’ makin’ a noise. As A sa’ the licht burnin’ nicht efter nicht, A daunnered up, thinkin’ maybe the oul woman wuznae weel, an, jest as it happened, it wuz the last nicht o’ the eggs, for the chickens wur tae arrive the nixt mornin’. Rab wuz sittin’ up, an’ he had aboot a yerd o’ rid flennin roon the hen, an’ had her feet tied thegither, an’ hir wings behin’ hir, an’ hir laid in front o’ the fire. Ivery egg he wid see wae a wee crack or ‘chipped’, as he ca’d it, he wid open wae his knife, so av coorse, the chicken didnae leeve lang. He asked me tae sit wae him, as his mother wuz daen oot wantin’ sleep, so A styed wae him, an’ that wuz a nicht A’ll niver forget.

Yin egg efter anither he opened, yin chicken efter the ither deperted, an’ the flappin’ o’ the hen ivery time she h’ard a burd cheepin’ wuz somethin’ awfu’. At last he had tae tie hir tae the crane, for ye widna knowed Rab frae a merrigoold wae ashes fleein’ in a direkshuns, a pile o’ empty egg shells at yin side o’ him an’ a heap o’ deid burds on the ither, the oul hen lyin’ wae the flennin roon hir middle, an’ iverythin’ covered wae ashes. The hen cudnae get a spunk o’ breth, so whan he sa’ hir wae her neb open, he says

‘Dae ye think she’s al’ richt, Erchie?’

A pits a blak spool on mae eye, an tuk a guid luck at hir. ‘Hir blid’s thirty in the shade,’ sez I.

‘In the shade what o’?’ sez he luckin’ al’ dumbfoondered in mae face as much as tae say, ‘Maybe better rise mae mother.’

‘In the shade o’ them ashes,’ sez I.

‘Cud ye prescribe onythin’ for hir?’ sez he.

‘O, deed A could,’ sez I, for A know a bit aboot medicine.

‘Weel,’ sez he, ‘spare nae expense.’

‘Mak hir the fu’ o’ hir mooth o’ grun ginger,’ sez I, ‘an’ gie it tae hir warm.’

The yin spoonfu’ daen hir. The cries o’ that hen brocht the oul woman, ringin’ hir hauns an’ tearin’ hir hair, an’ cryin’, ‘Rab, Rab, what is wrang?’

Rab broke doon, an’ between his sabs he sez, ‘There’s the empy, an’ here’s the deid burds’, sez he. ‘Bit what aboot them,’ sez he, brichtenin’ up a bit, ‘as lang as she’s weel enuch hirsel. Erchie an’ me hez jest pit a drench in hir.’

Bit frae that nicht if iver A sa’ an egg A aye proposed tae boil it, rether than hae the bother Rab had. A’ll awa’ tae mae bed noo. Yours, as usual,

Erchie Nuhan’



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