Here’s Cally’s ‘wee’ thoughts about it (or wee thochts aboot it
I believe the French have a rigid grammar and an Academy which regulates it (?!) and of course the English have RP (which few speak naturally but can be trained… as can Advanced RP which the Queen speaks!) but I would hate to think that Scotland try to copy -yet I constantly come across arguments about what is ‘proper’ ‘true’ or ‘real’ Scots language. It always makes me think we are getting above ourselves.
For example – I (believe) I think in Scots and transfer it to English. I don’t ‘throw in’ Scots words to ‘prove’ that I am writing ‘proper’ Scots and maybe I write phonetically because I don’t believe there is a ‘proper’ spelling orthography for Scots (I’m sure purists will tell me otherwise) I write as I would speak if the voice in my head hadn’t been dinned out of my by years of oppression and ‘training’. That is my voice. It’s a voice which was nurtured and grew up in Scotland. The voice of a person who feels Scottish as a visceral feeling. But who was bullied into ‘speaking properly’ over many, many years. A victim as much as those who were forced to write with their right hand when left handed (I was allowed to write with my left but made to use cutlery ‘properly’) And as much as those who were prevented from using their native Gaelic. It has left me perhaps more amenable to understanding that judging person in the first 15 seconds, or the moment they open their mouth is as foolish as judging a book by its cover. I (believe) I use Scots cadence (possibly grammar) in my speech and writing but I’ll readily accept that I’m a peasant when it comes down to it and my understanding of grammar in English or Scots is well below par. I was a child of the 60’s and they wanted us to express ourselves freely (as long as it was in Standard English!)
Ah cud write the above in ma version o’ Scots an’ ah’d be quite the thing that fowk wid get me. But pit it tae the purists an’ ah micht nae be sae lucky. Wid it be bonnier if ah pit in a few words like scunnered n’ tapsleteery or that? Ah huv a load o’ they words in ma heid, bit ah dinnae use theym unless ah feel as they’re pairt o’ ma story. Ah dinnae hink ye get a prize fer Scots simply by throwin’ even a word like houghmagandy intae the mix – or sayin’ ‘a bonnie word like houghmagandy’ even. Ma point is, ah wid like tae write like ah hear it in ma heid, but the audience is wee fer such writin’. The English wunner whit yer sayin’ and some Scots shake their nappers and tell ye ye’re an abomination tae ‘true’ Scots.
Ah believe Scots language is a broad kirk. ( The purists micht say a ‘braid’ kirk but ah dinna hear braid in ma heid I hear broad sae broad it is fer me) An’ ah hink that as lang as whit ah dae is honest, ah may be ignorant but a’ cannae be ca’d a traitor tae ma ain country. Ah hink it’s mair traitorous tae be yin o’ they fowk who ca’ on a ‘canon’ of Scots literature. That’s no ma Scotland. Ma Scotland is mair Hope over Fear than National Collective.
And in this (seguing effortlessly back into English as many fellow Scots writers have done before me) I follow in the footsteps of S.R.Crockett who was a Gallovidian born and bred and who wrote in English AND in Gallovidian dialect. (He also wrote in many other dialects but that’s by the by) and he wrote so that if you read it out loud you’d ‘hear’ the particular accent. He was slated by many both for the English and the dialect. Like so many wee scots he was bullied by the Big Scots. When he threatened their crowns they tried to destroy his reputation (yes Christopher Murray Grieve I’m talking about you!)
Samuel Rutherford Crockett was born Samuel Crocket, illegitimate son of Annie Crocket a dairymaid. He won the Galloway Bursary and made it to Edinburgh University (where he supported himself through tutoring and journalistic writing) and he added the Rutherford and an extra ‘t’ perhaps to gain more respectability? Perhaps just to sound more like a writer. He was greatly taken with Robert Louis Stevenson after all. But it seems no worse than changing your name from Christopher Murray Grieve to Hugh MacDiarmid! His father was a postman. At least he had a father to acknowledge him and give him a name. Why did he change it? I’ve never known. There has to be a reason.
The point I’m slowly coming to is that Crockett both wrote in Scots and understood Scots humour – though in both respects he still does not find favour with the ‘establishment’ who hold Scottish literature in thrall (I nearly said by the…) and who seem to have had a humour bypass in respect of rural fiction. In and of itself let me tell you there’s naethin’ wrang wi’ kail – is it not noo even a super food? And one man’s nostalgia is another man’s realism. And since when did Scots find emotion a dirty word, giving it up in favour of a ‘Stiff Upper Lip.’ Ah, modernism has a lot to answer for. For my money, if you explore the work of S.R.Crockett (as indeed, dear reader I have) you’ll find oodles of irony, a fair dollop of humour and mair than a smidgin of social commentary. Indeed, dear reader, or plain pal o’ mines, if ye’re lookin’ for someone tae compare Crockett wi, ye micht look nae further than wan Rabbie Burns. If Rabbie Burns wrote prose he micht well hae sounded a lot like Crockett… is ma opinion. If that doesn’t make both Ayrshire men and Gallovidians birl in their graves! (The deid wans that is.) The rest o’ ye will shake yer heids and ca’ me fer a feckless lassie. The rivalry between Ayrshire and Gallowa’ is fierce even noo. Dismiss me fer a fool is ye like, mines after a’ is a wee, wee voice and getting’ wee-er every year as I leave the tawdry baubles and bawbees o’ Big Voices behind me.
And this is all by way of introduction to a FUNNY short story Crockett wrote about an Ayrshireman which you can read on McStorytellers HERE. But please dinnae pit a po face on –whether it be an Englishy wan or a ‘true’ Scots wan. If ye cannae see the humour it’s nae Crockett’s faut. Look tae yersel’.
The story is told by the narrator Saunders M’Quhirr – he’s one of Scotland’s great unsung characters. It’s set in the early 19th century. And it’s only just fiction.
An’ if ye cannae be arsed tae gang tae McStorytellers – here’s more of Crockett’s ‘insight’ into Ayrshiremen from his non-fiction(?) writing.
BACKGROUND TO THE STORY.
Crockett, a Gallovidian, wrote humorously about Ayrshiremen (at least it was funny if you were a Gallovidian!) No offence to Ayshiremen living or dead is intended in his story or in its introduction:
A Gallovidian on an Ayrshireman.
To belong to Dumfries is indeed a crime in the eyes of every true son of the ancient and independent province. But yet there is a kind of pity attached to the ignoble fact, as for men who would have helped the matter if they had been consulted in time, but who now have to face the fault of their parents as best they may.
The case is, however, entirely different with an Ayrshire-man. He is an Ayrshireman by intent. For him there can be no excuse. For his villainy no palliation. Is there not in the records of Scottish law a well-authenticated case in which one Mossman was hanged on May 20, 1785, upon the following indictment:--
1. That the prisoner was found on the king's highway without cause.
2. That he ‘wandered in his discoorse.’
3. ‘That he belonged to Carrick.’
The last count was proven and was fatal to him. And with good reason. Many an honester man has been hanged for less.
I remember a very intelligent old native of Kirkcudbright telling me that the reception of Burns's poems in Galloway was much retarded by the prejudice against an Ayrshireman, and was indeed never completely overcome during the poet's lifetime.
‘Ye gat the price o' it where the Ayrshireman gat the coo.’ The admirable Trotter has the story thus: ‘There was a queer craitur that they caa Tam Rabinson leeved at Wigton, and he had a kind o' weakness; but he had some clever sayings for all that. Also, like most Gallowaymen, he disliked the Ayrshiremen for what he considered their meanness and their undoubted habit of taking people's farms over their heads. One day Tarn found a very big mushroom, and was taking it home to his mother. So when he came to the corner end, a lot of men were standing about, and a big Ayrshire dealer of the name of Cochrane among them that had the habit of tormenting Tam, and trying to make a fool of him. Seeing Tam with the big mushroom, Cochrane cried out:
'Hullo, Tammock, what did you pay for the new bannet?'
'The same price that the Ayrshireman payed for the coo,' says Tam.
‘An' what did he pay for the coo?' asks Cochrane.
‘Oh, naething!' says Tam, 'he juist fand it in a field.'
Which was a saying exceedingly hard for an Ayrshireman and a cattle-dealer to stomach.