Taken from: 'Guid Wittins Frae Docter Luik'
"Dinnae be feart, for A'm bringin yis tha best news iver; an it's for tha hale warl! Tha Saviour, ay, tha Christ, tha Lord, haes this nicht bin boarn in Bethlehem, tha toon o Davit. An this is hoo ye'll ken him. Ye'll fin a babbie, rowlt in bits o claith, lyin amang tha fother in a manger.'
oul freens A hope this week fins ye aa weel fer thur’s alocht o' seekness gan roon. Ivery ither cretter
ye meet is deein' wi tha cowl. Ay, an Am nae exception. A hae an oul craitle in
my breesht a cannae git ridd o'. Fower weeks A hae bin hirslin. Last week A tuk
maesel tae tha doctor bit thon antibiotics he gien me micht es weel o' bin
smerties fer aa tha guid the’
Durin' tha day it’s
no tae bad bit at nicht Am splooterin an blooterin simthin wile. Ay, wi aa tha
weeslin an clocerin gan oan it's a wunner oanyin in tha hoose's gits oany
Tha ither day tha plooterin' an bloicherin' wus sae fierce that
A managed tae pu simthin in ma showlder an noo A hae tae houl maesel lik
Ballyhalbert, aa tae tha yin side. An es if aa thon wusnae bad eneuch a hae cum
doon wi a quare dose o’ tha
cowl forbye. Ma heid's blocked, ma neb's rinnin' an ma thrapple is es reuch es
a badgers erse.
Ay, a doot yin mere clean shirt 'ell dae mae. Bit the' say if ye
dinnae laugh ye'll cry sae A’ll
lee ye wi this oul yin.
Thur wus an oul cretter wha wunt tae tha doctor wi a wile pain
in haes richt han.
"Ach doctor," sez he, "A hae a pooerfu sore han.
A can herdly clase it."
The doctor asts him tae strip tae haes simmit an gaes him a
quare gan iver. Efter haes bin pued an hoaked fae heid tae fit.
The doctor sez, "A hae a cream fer ye that shud sort yer
han oot in nae time."
Relieved tha oul boy sez, "A’m
gled tae hear it doctor, bit Am wunnerin’
wun tha pain gans, wu’ll a
bae fit tae play tha piano?"
A few weeks ago, whilst researching a article on Halloween for my newspaper column. I came across several brief accounts of the 'Christmas Rhymers'. I happened to mention this largely forgotten tradition to a few friends fae tha Ards. The next day I was rewarded with an email from Mr Thompson with an attachment containing several pages from a book entitled 'Six Miles from Bangor' wherein there is a description of the Christmas Rhymers as remembered by the author from his childhood in Donaghadee.
Intrigued I began to research this local tradition and was surprised to find that many texts still exist detailing various versions of the play.
The play was brought to Ireland by English and Scottish settlers in the 1600s (despite what fanciful notions you may read on other websites) and is related to the medieval mystery plays.
The mummers play is an example of the Hero-Combat play, one of the prototypes of English folk drama and deals with the theme of death and revival.
Costumes varied from place to place but were not (contrary to some websites) all straw and wicker work. One character would wear a top hat, another armour, yet another a cardboard nose. Only one was in the full straw regalia and he was called, surprise surprise, 'Jack Straw'.
For more information on Christmas Mummers and Rhymers in Ireland you can click on the link below, where you will find a comprehensive study of the tradition by Alan Gailey http://www.folkplay.info/Ron/Gailey1968.pdf
Having stumbled across this important piece of our past I was impressed upon by Mr Anderson to revive this tradition. To this end I have compiled and arranged a Christmas Rhymers play, which Mr Anderson is currently promoting in the Ards.
Please check out Mr Anderson's blog for details of forthcoming performances. http://abalmoralperspective-hma.blogspot.co.uk/
Ay, Halloween is cumin' bit A doot ye’ll hear oany rhymers at yer dure. Yer mere lichtly
tae fin a clatter o' weans dressed up es super heroes shootin', 'trick oor
treat' an houlin oot plastic bags fer sweets. Maebe it's jist me bit A cannae
wairm tae thon Amerikan idea o' Halloween. This notion o' gie es hanfus o'
chocolate oor wu’ll dae
simthin oan ye seems a puir excuse fer oor ain traditions whur apples an nuts
oor a wheen o' pence wus handit oot tae weans efter they'd gin ye a rhyme oor a
Years ago naeboady haed elaborate ootfits bocht fae shaps an
folk didnae feel tha need tae dae up thur wundas wi mak believe cobwebs an
spiders oor plaster tha ootside o' thur hoose wi orange an bleck decorations.
Half tha fun cum fae makin' yer ain costume oot o' oul claes an bleck'nin' yer
face wi a drap o’ soot fae
Aff coorse oanyin o’
a mere mature vintage wull tell ye that even tha Halloween rhymers ir a racent
edition an that tha verse at tha stairt shud bae, 'Christmas is cumin’ tha goose is gettin' fat'. An
thur nae wrang fer maist o' oor Halloween rhymes cum fae tha oul Christmas
mumming plays. A tradition that haes aa bit disappear't iver tha last faftie
year. Ay, A doot thur's oanyin left wha haes mine o' Room Room, Devil Doubt oor
Johnny Funny, tha wee man that collects the money. Jist es in a wheen o' years
thur bae naeboady left wha haes mine o’
carvin' turnips oor bobbin' fer apples.
Ach weel A suppose wae hae tae accept that things change es time
gans oan. Stillanaw A cannae help bit think wae haed mere fun.
If ye hae twa minutes tae spare ye cud click oan http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nd5vz
an gan tae 15.30 oan the timeline.
Tae regular listeners o Kist yer stuck wi me ivery ither week tae aboot christmas.
A wunner hoo mony o’
ye hae herd o' a film caa'd 'An Inconvenient Truth' aboot tha former United
States Vice President Al Gore's campaign tae edyecate folk aboot global
wermin'. It wus yin o' tha maist successful films o' twa thoosan an seiven. It
won twa Academy awerds an is use’t
aroon tha wurld tae edyecate weans.
Stillanaw iver faftie percent o' Amerikans dinnae believe in tha
idea o' global wermin'.
A suppose thur's sum folk hoo jist cannae bae edyecated. Wether
it's tae mitch boather, oor jist plain thranness, thur jist naw willin' tae
appen thur mind tae tha truth, even an undeniable yin. Aff coorse thur's aye
thon wi an interest in hidin' tha truth. Pooerfu organisations hoo profit fae
tha ignorance o' ithers.
Ay, A can sympathise wi Mr Gore fer oor ain leid haes becum
anither yin o' thon inconvenient truths. Tha Ulster-Scots people alang wi thur
culture an language hae bin aroon fer iver fower hunner year. Yet accordin' tae
twathry creeters, wi access tae a keyboord, bit no tha Internet it wud seem,
tha Ulster-Scots language is a racent invention.
Hoo the' managed tae ignore tha screeds o' evidence tae tha
contary is beyon’t me. A’m dumfoonthered es tae hoo tha
fail’t tae cum acroass
wurks sitch es tha poems o’
tha weaver poets published in Irish newspapers throughoot tha late seiventeen
hunners oor tha popular scrievens o' W. G. Lyttle in tha nineteenth century, aa
o' whuch haes bin republished in tha last wheen o' years.
An a wee skelly oan tha internet wull inform oanyin aboot tha
humorous an at times poignant buks o' Archibald McIlroy, sitch es, 'When Lint
was in the Bell' (1897) an 'The Auld Meetin Hoose Green'. (1898).
This weeks, 'Wurd o' tha Week is NYAM. Nyam is used to describe one who is a nyammer or who is engaged in nyamin.
Nyam is one of those great Ulster-Scots words that sounds exactly like what it means. A nyam is the cry of a cat. And is used to describe someone who complains excessively. We all know a Nyam.
Audio Only (Fer aa thon wha fin tha Ulster-Scots herd tae read)
Iver tha past twathry weeks A hae bin ast half a dizin times
whur ir ye gan on yer hoalidays? Whun A tell thum naewhur tha aa luk at mae
dumfoonthered, like they cannae git thur heid roon oanyboady stayin at hame.
Surely Am no tha ainly yin wha can mind whun gaen' awa on yer hoalidays wus a
weeks stap at yer granmithers, a wheen o minutes doon tha road.
Ay, simmer hoalidays ir quarely changed fae whun A wus a wean.
Yin o ma favourite Ulster-Scots writers Hugh Robinson summed up tha hale thing
far better than A iver cud in haes book 'Across The Fields Of Yesterday' whur
he tells iz aboot tha hoalidays o his youth. " As fair as us boys wur
consarned, hoalidays hud naethin tae dae wi sim place ye wunt awa tae in the
simmer. It wus aa aboot sim place ye didnae gan. Schuil."
Ay, tha stert o July wus a magical time whun tha eenless days o
simmer stretched oot afore iz wi promises o swemmin' in tha tide, runnin' thru
fiels an haein adventures. Tha simmer wus aa aboot freedim. But then freedim
wus easier cumby fer iz weans. Fer whun ye hae nithin yeve nithin tae loass.
Oanythin wus possible an tha hale kintrie wus oors tae plunder.
Aff coorse wae
didnae git tae rin roon aa simmer, thur wus wurk tae bae din gatherin prootas
oor bringin' in tha bales, bit even thon wus a sort o' adventure fer iz weans.
A chance tae prove oorsels. Tae enter tha wurl o oor faither's an thur
faither's. Tae be trate like men fer twathry days.
Sadly thon days ir lang gan bit whiles a michtnae bae fit tae
gaether prootas ir rin acroass a fiel, a quait danner doon tha beaches an
loanins o hame is worth a dizin weeks o leein sweetin unner an umbrella. Sae
whun sim yin tells ye thur gan naewhur fer tha simmer it micht jist bae because
naewhurs haird tae bate,
Until nixt time lang mae
yer lum reek an yer spicket dribble.
(This article was first published in the Belfast Newsletter on 2nd June 2012)
Pale an white an rid aa iver
Ma Granny aye said, “thurs
nithin as hard on weans as tha sun.”
Am thinking thur’s mony’s a yin roon tha country haes
fun thon oot iver tha past wheen o days. Fer A hae loast coont o tha number o
scalded folk A hae seen waakin aroon tha toon.
Noo, gettin burnt no oanythin new. A hae mine o mony’s a rid neck fae getherin
prootas as a wean. Bit thurs nae caa fer it noo. Tha chemist shaps ir fair
hotchin wae bricht yella bottles guaranteed tae stap tha sin fae strippin tha
hide o ye. Mind ye it aye struck mae as sorta odd that tha next shelf wus fill’d wae rows o pale blue bottles
tae gae ye ease efter tha yella yins haenae worked.
I hae a notion that thon wee bottles ir gan tae git a workin
this week as wae aa gether tae celebrate Her Majesty’s Jubilee. Mind ye if folk can git a howl o simthin
blue, aa thon rid an white airms wavin aroon wull luk quare an patriotic .
Noo fer aa tha readers o '
Fae tha pen o an Aul Han' am gan tae let ye in on an oul Ulster-Scots secret
that guarantees yin hunner percent prevention o sunburn on amaist ivery pairt o
tha boady. This oul remedy haes bin hand'd doon fae generation tae generation
in mae femly. Ma faither swore by it, an haes faither afore thon, an whiles a
locth o folk ir gan tae doot ye whun ye tell thum whut ye hae learnt ye can lee
bak an think o aa tha siller ye ir savin fae no haein tae buy oany o thon yella
bottles. Ye see tha secret tae avoidin sunburn iz, keep yer claes on. Ay it micht soond far fetched tae oor
modern waes o thinking bit if ye gae it a go I ken ye'll bae pleased wae tha
ootcum. Until next week, " Lang mae yer lum reek an yer spicket
The good people at the Ulster-Scots Language Society were kind enough to publish two of the poems I wrote last year in the latest edition of Ullans Magazine. They were also generous enough to provide some much needed editorial advice, for which I am greatly indebted. Below I have included my poem Solace which appears on page 23 of Issue 12
Hae ye mind whun ye cud o gaen fir a danner wi'oot a bricth
yella jerkin or a wee flashin licht? Whun ye cud o lee’d tha hoose wi’oot
twa oors preparation. Aye, ye hae tae wunner if thon creeters wae watter
bottles, heid phones and step coonters wud no be better aff on yin o thon
I think folk hae forgot hoo tae danner. Ye dinnae need a locth o
parafinelia. Tha maist ye shud tak iz a guid stick an maybe a coat or a ganzy,
jist hae mind tae follae tha oul sayin an cast ne'er a cloot tae Mays oot, an
ye’ll be aa richt.
Aye, a danners no a danner wi'oot a dascent waakin stick. Wather
it's a blackthorn fir leanin on or a sally rod fir snickin tha heids o
dandelions ye kenn’d yer
gaen simwhar wae a stick in yer han.
Bit tha hairtsim thing aboot a guid danner is tha kintrieside:
tha white snawdrops, tha yella whin blossoms, tha lopsided sycamore seeds
burlin roon as they faa fae branches abain yer heid. It disnae seem licht oany
yin taks tha time tae luk aroon thum nooadays. I doot Mr Davies hae'd it richt
whun he said "A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand
Whut use iz it tae ken hoo mony calories ye hae burnt. If ye saw
naethin o worth.
If ye learnt naethin. If ye thoct aboot naethin bit yersel.
So tha nixt time yer oot on tha road, gaen oot o yer road, an
appen yer een. Tak yer time, an dinnae waak, danner.
Ivery year aroon Christmas I hae mine o ma faither hokin oot his oul tartan fitba bag. Its near foartie year sine a seen thon oul bag but I hae mind o it like it wus yisterday. It wus small compared tae thadays yins but it wus big enugh tae howl a tha kit ye needed. Thur wus an oul pair o shin guards, tha kind ye tucked intae yer socks, thur wus nae velcro in thon days. They wur aboot twa times as heavy as tha yins that weans wear thaday an ribbed wae whut lukked like wudden strips.
Thur wus also a pair o weel worn blak leather fitba boots, wae leather studs that ye hae’d tae hemmer in oer a lathe. Inside yin o tha boots thur wus a wee jar o dubbin wae a greasy rag wrapped roon it. Boots wurnae sae easy cumby an ye cudnae afford tae neglect them.
Last but no least lay a small thin clear glass bottle wae ribbed sides. It contained a dark brown liquid and had a picture o a gentleman wae a handlebar moustache on it. Noo I hae furgotten monies a thing but I can still remember the smell o Sloan’s Liniment. Yin whiff wud a clear’d yer heid fir a foartnicht
Yinst iverthin hae’d bin checked tha bag was pit in tae tha boot o tha car ready fir tha oul crocks fitba match. I’m sure it hae’d a mere formal title bit that’s whut we a caa’d it. Tha oul crocks match wus played ivery year aroon Christmas at tha Sand Field in Ballywalter an was appen tae players fae tha lower Ards iver thurtie-five. As weans wae wurnae much interested in wha won tha game, but wae fairly enjoyed pokin fun at a thon oul crocks, reekin o Sloan’s Liniment an Winter Green, hirpplin up an doon tha pitch. Bit time maks fools o iz aa an noo its maesel whas hirpplen aroon. Maebae I shud hae a luk fir thon oul liniment bottle.
Until tha next time, lang mae yer lum reek an yer spicket dribble. (written for the press March 2012)
Whilst carrying out some research on ghost stories from the North West I came across the gruesome legend of Stumpy's Brae, occasionally called the Legend of Tom the Toiler.
Stumpy's Brae is the steep brae between Craighadoes and Lifford near a bridge that is featured in the poem. It is interesting to note the use of the Ulster-Scots tongue throughout, as we tend to forget that this area was home to a sizable number of Scottish Planters
There is a wealth of information on the poem and it author Cecil Frances Alexander (who also wrote Once in Royal David's City. All Things Bright and Beautiful and There is a Green Hill Far Away) at :www.stjohnstonandcarrigans.com/stumpysbrae.html
Twarthy miles fae Lifford
By Cecil Frances Alexander (Londonderry, December 1844)
Heard ye no tell o' Stumpy's Brae?
Sit doon, sit doon, young freen',
I'll mak your flesh to creep this night
and your hair to stan' on end.
Young man, it's hard to strive wi' sin
And the hardest strife o' a'
Is when the greed o' gain comes in
And drives God's grace awa'.
O, it's quick to do, but it's lang to rue
When the punishment comes at last
And we'd gi' the whole world to undo the deed
That deed that's gone and past.
Over yon strip of meadow land
And over the bintie bright
Dinna ye mark a fir-tree stand
Beside yon gable white.
I mind it well in my young days
The story it was rife,
There lived in a lonely cottage
A farmer and his wife.
They sat all alone in the bright fire light
Wan blessed Autumn night,
The hedge without, the stones within,
Were streaked wi' the bright moonlight.
The boys and girls had a' gone doon a wee
To the old blacksmith's wake,
There passed one by the winda' sma',
And he gied the door a shake.
The auld man got up and opened the door,
And after he'd spoken a bit,
A pedlar man stept into the floor and tumbled doon the pack he bore,
A right heavy pack was it.
"Guid bless us a" cried the auld man wi' a smile,
"But ye're in the thrivin' trade",
"Aye, I have travelled mony a mile
An' plenty I have made."
The two sat on in the bright fire light,
The pedler had gone to his rest.
The devil he came to the auld man’s ear,
And slip’t intil his breast.
He looked at his wife across the fire
She was as bad as he,
"Could we no murder this man the nacht?"
"Aye could we rightly," quo’ she.
He lifted his pick without a word,
It stood behind the door,
And as he pressed in the sleeper stirred,
But he never wakened more.
"He’s deid!" cried the auld man coming back,
"What’s to do wi’ the corpse, me dear?"
"Oh, bury him snug in his ane wee pack.
Never mind the loss o' the sack. I’ve taken out the gear."
"The corpse's too long by two guid span,
Oh! What’ll we do?" quo’ he.
Says she - "Ye're a doting, unthinkin' oul man,
Just snick him off at the knee."
They shortened the corpse, and they packed him tight
Wi’ his legs in a pickle o’ hay,
Over the burn in the bright moonlight
They carried him up to the Brae.
They shovelled a hole right speedily
And they laid him on his back,
"A right guid pair are ye" quo’ the Pedlar,
Sitting boldly up in his pack.
"Ye thought ye’d lay me snugly here
Where none should know my station
But I’ll haunt ye far, and I’ll haunt ye near
Father and son, wi' terror and fear, till the nineteenth
They sat all alone the very next night,
When the wee bit dog began to cower
And they knew by the pale blue fire-light
That the Evil One had power.
It had just struck nine o’ the clock,
That hour when the man lay dead,
When there came to the outer door a knock,
And a heavy, heavy tread.
The auld wife’s heid swam roun' and roun',
The auld man's blood did freeze,
‘Twas not like a natural sound, but like someone
stumping over the ground
On the banes o’ his raw bare knees.
And in through the door like a sough of air,
And he stumped and he stumped around the twa’
Wi’ his bloody heid, and his knee bones bare
As he died that night awa.
The wife’s black locks ere morn grew white,
They say, as mountain snows.
The man was as straight as a rush that night
But he crooked when the next morn he rose.
And every night as the clock struck nine,
The hour they did the sin,
The wee dog began to whine
An' the ghost came clatterin’ in.
And stump, stump, stump to his ploys again
Over the taps o' the stools and chairs,
Ye’d surely hae thought it was ten weemen and men
Dancin' all in pairs.
A’ night, there was a fearful flood,
Three days the skies had poured
And the tap wi' foam and the bottom wi' mud,
The burn in fury roared.
Quo’ she, "Guid man ye needne turn sae pale
In the dim fire light
The stumpy cannae cross the burn
He’ll naw be here the nacht."
"For it’s ower the bank, it's ower
It's ower the meadow rig."
"Aye", said the ghost comin' clattering in a gied the auld wife a bat on the chin,
"But I cam' roun by the brig".
They sold their gear and across the sea,
To a foreign land they went
But sure what can flee
from his appointed punishment?
The ship swam over the ocean clear,
Wi’ the help o’ the Western breeze
But the very first sound they heard on the wide, smooth deck
Was the thumpin’ o’ them twa bare knees.
Out in the wild woods of America
Where their weary feet they set,
But Stumpy was there first they say, and haunted them to