Yin Life

Author: William Davidson

Date: 2004

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

William Davidson


Eh nivir married. It wuznae that eh wuz ill luckin, fur eh wuz tahl, wi blaak curly hair an bricht broon een. Naw, eh wuz weel luckin, it wuznae that. But if ye hadda axed onyboody aboot ’im they wud aa hae sid the same, that eh wuz baakward, parteeklarly wi wimmen. Gye an aften whun ye spoke tae ’im eh wudda sid nithin, skellied at ye fool luckin, or lucked doon at the grun.

Eh wuz chrisened Tammas, but eh niver got ocht but Tam. There wor ten o’ them in the wee hoose up the land ruch loanin at the sooth neuk o’ Glen Fada, the fether, mother an’ echt weans. Tam wuz the youngest o’ the brood. There wuznae much grun an’ maist o’ it wuz grazin’ or moontin. Yin by yin the weans groued up an’ left, yin followin’ the ither ower the ocean tae Canada an’ America. Then there wuz juist Tam an’ the oul fether an’ mother.

The fether wuz a quaite man, niver in guid health. Eh tuk tae eh’s bed an’ only come doon the odd time. Then eh didnae come doon ava, unless ye coont bein’ kerried oot the door in eh’s coffin. So onywye, that left Tam an’ the oul hizzie tae luk efter their wee wheen o’ beese an’ sheep. They didnae gaa oot much. They pyed intae the Kirk, but they nivir went tae the Meetin’ Hoose.

Yin or twa folk wudda caaled in, for the oul mother liked news, tae hear wha wuz daein’ weel, or daein’ badly, an’, of coorse, there wuz aye the breid kerts an’ ither yins comin’ in an’ oot. Tae tell ye the truth a guid wheen o’ folk kep oot o’ hir road, fur shay had an ill tongue in hir heid. If your beese or sheep hadda went on tae hir grun, shay wudda come doon intae yir cassey shoutin’ aboot puttin’ the laa on ye. So onywye, maist o’ the time they leeved in a worl o’ their ain.

Whiles the outside worl’ did brack in. They heerd little fae the brithers an’ sisters, apert fae the odd letter an’ postcard. An’, of coorse, money wuz sent hame tae the oul mother. Then yin o’ the sins come hame. He geen the appearance o’ haein’ din weel, tho’ some folk sid if eh done sae weel in Canada, why did eh no stey there. “Sam Rab’s baak”, they sid “an’ taaks as if eh wuz boorn in Canada, no Glen Fada”. Onywye, Tam didnae taak too weel tae eh’s brither’s return. Eh likely thocht eh wuz comin’ baak tae taak ower, efter aa his years o’ hard labour. But Rab didnae stey lang. Eh bocht a horse an’ ridd aboot lik’ some gentleman, wrocht at nithin. Eh’s money soon run oot an’ eh finished up inside the nerra gavels o’ Bellamena workhoose. Eh died there o’ scarlet faiver.

The oul wumman tuk it baad; shay thocht shay’d got a loost sin baak, only tae loss ’im agane fur guid. Shay went doon hill fast, tuk hir baad temper oot on Tam. Yin o’ the kirk elders come tae see hir, tried tae get hir tae gaa tae the Meetin’ Hoose. “The nixt taim ah’ll be in Glenfada Meetin’ Hoose wull be wi the boords on me face”, shay sid. An’ dae ye know, shay wuz richt. Saa, whun the han’ shakin’ wuz din in the graveyard, Tam went baak tae the hoose on eh’s ain.

Bein’ on eh’s ain seemed tae change ’im. Eh started tae gaa oot at nicht, maistly tae neighbour hooses. Eh wudda sut in the corner an’ sid little. Folk sid eh only went roon the hooses tae save ’im heain’ tae maak eh’s ain tay in the foresupper. Then eh started tae waak doon tae Craigban, a wee clatter o’ hooses wi a shap an’ a pub. Eh went tae a certaint hoose whure the hel’ punch dances. What wuz in the punch, ah dinny know: maistly wee still ah wudda thocht. They wor poor folk an’ gled o’ the wheen o’ pennies they wor geen. The guid leevin folk didnae like it, of coorse, an’ they wor brocht up an’ admonished in front o’ the Kirk Session. But, onywye, that wuz whure Tam tasted strong drink fur the first taim.

The drink brocht ’im oot o’ eh’s sel, dae ye see, made ’im feel less baakward. An’ the punch dance hoose wuz whure eh fell in wi Mag. Shay leeved on the ither side o’ the Glen an’ iveryboody wudda toul ye shay wuznae up tae much. Shay wuz a guid bit ouler than Tam an’ shay attached hirsel tae ’im laik a breer tae a sheep’s wull. Shay didnae move intae the hoose, but shay kina tuk ’im ower, hir an’ hir freens. They geen Tam orders, lached at ’im, trated ’im worse than a dug. “Hi Tam”, they wudda sid, “mak uz a drap o’ tay”, or “Tam, rin doon tae the shap an’ get uz somethin’ tae drink”. An’ him, laik the saft gulpin that eh wuz, seemed tae taak it aa, niver turned the word on them.

An’ worst o’ aa, Mag had a sin. They caaed him the cave man, becauz eh wuz supposed tae leeve in a cave, efter eh’s ma putt ’im oot o’ the hoose. Sae ye may guess eh wuznae a guid yin. Eh wudda come ower tae Tam’s on a Setterday nicht, houlin oot eh’s han, luckin fur money tae spen on drink. An’, dae ye know, the fool eejit geen ’im money, juist tae be redd o’ ’im. Weel onywye, Tam got redd o’ Mag an’ hir freens. Ah canny tell ye the richt story, becauz ah heerd sae mony ah dinny know what yin’s the truth. Ah think mesel eh juist cud taak nae mair, but eh musta din somethin’ drastic, fur shay wuz yin hizzy wuznae easy skared.

Efter this eh steyed close tae hame fur a guid while. Whun eh did gaa oot agane folk wor surprised whun eh started tae frequent the pubs. Mebbe eh thocht eh wuz missin’ oot on somethin’, ah dinny know. But whativer the raison eh wuznae used tae the drink an’ ye wudda fun ’im lyin at the side, or whiles in the middle o’ the road an’ had tae kerry ’im hame. Eh started tae get cattered lukin, didnae keep eh’s sel sae clean.

Then yin o’ the brither’s sins come hame wi nae warnin an’ steyed wi ’im ower the simmer an’ this seemed tae gie ’im heert. The Meetin’ Hoose folk niver deserted ’im an’ finely eh geen in an’ started tae go tae the Meetin’. Eh didnae go fur lang, ah dinny know why, but as ah sid, eh wuz quate an’ baakwaard in company an’ mebbe eh thocht some o’ the Meetin’ Hoose yins luked doon on ’im. …

Eh wuz getting oul noo, the blaak hair turned grey, the boody wuznae sae straicht. Eh cut doon eh’s stock, let oot maist o’ the grun, kep a wheen o’ beese. If eh seen ye on the road noo eh wudda turned an’ went the ither wye or stud in behin a busch.

Yin mournin a neighbour wuz oot fotherin beese whun eh happened tae luk ower the dyke. Eh seen what eh thocht wuz a pile o’ raags lyin beside a hye rack, wi twa or three kye stanin roon. Eh jumped ower an’ fun Tam lyin’ stiff an’ deid, half birried in clabber.

Nane o’ the owerseas yins come tae the funeral. It’s a lang wye fae Ontario an’ Manitoba tae Glen Fada. But they did get the money whun the ferm wuz sowl. Eh wuz birried in the wee graveyard in the middle o’ the fiels, in a guid shiltrie plice at the baak o’ the waa. Iveryboody sid what a guid boody eh wuz. Aye, the aa sid, eh niver done onyboody ony harm.



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