Rough Scan
 

 

 

 



 
        
       
        AT SALTCOATS
         
         
        I‘M sure ye 
          must be wondering, BAILIE, what’s come ower me.  Weel, I hivna’ forgot ye’ or my freens, your readers, either; but 
          the fac’ is, I’ve been extending my business, and I’ve opened a branch 
          establishment doon here in Saltcoats, and a’tho’ it’s no sae big as 
          my ither establishment, yet it’s growin’, it’s growin’.
        Ye may weel 
          speir what sent me doon here.  Hooever, 
          ye ken I like everything that’s auld-fashioned, and where could ye get 
          an aulder-fashioned toon than this?  
          The first time I saw’t was on a Glasgow Fast-day when we got 
          a chape trip, and as I stood at the ruins o’ the auld castle (some folk 
          say it was never a castle but just an auld saut work) at the foot o’
        Castleweerock, and inhaled the ozone, I said to niysel’, “This is the 
          place for me to start anither mammoth coal depôt tae leave tae my second 
          laddie as an inheritance, and enjoy the fine sea air when I’m no
        thrang, 
          and so maybe add a dizzen years tae my life.  As it maun be a gie cauld place in winter I 
          should, forbye, dae a guid bizzness.”
        I acted on the 
          spur o’ the moment—that’s a kin’ a’ circus-looking quotation, but it’s 
          no meant for that—an’ started richt aff.
        My auldest son 
          and heir still stauns at the receipt o’ custom at Stra’bungo, and my 
          second hauds the reins o’ management doon here, and I jisi rin back 
          an’ forrit atween them a fortnicht here and a fortnicht there, and gie 
          a kin’ o      general supervision ower the young
        anes, 
          guiding them in the paths o’ rectitude their faither has trod for sae 
          mony years..
        Weel, the langer 
          I’m here the better I like it.  Man,
        BAILIE, it's an auld-worl’ toon.
        The newspapers 
          are makin' a great wark aboot the rowdyism o' the Glasgow Toon Council, 
          and I am inclined tae think frae the rate they're going on, that they'll 
          by and bye be pulling oot revolvers and bowie knives at one anither.
        Doon here, Toon 
          Cooncils dinna exist, and a Provost is unknown.  Every man is a law unto himsel’, and it works wunnerfu’ and saves 
          a’ disputes.  We’ve neither Magistrates, 
          Toon Cooncil, nor Dean o’ Guild Coort.
        They tell me 
          that when some new-fangled notion is agitated for they ca’ a meeting 
          o’ the inhabitants, and after a sang or twa they hae a freenly talk, 
          and finally come to the conclusion that they had better “leave weel
        alane;" it has served them in the past, and there’s nae reason 
          why it shouldna dae sae for the future.  
          Noo, that’s guid soun’ common sense.
        There’s a heep 
          o’ folk alloo that the race is degenerating, and if so, why should they 
          be coddled up wi’ new improve­ments?  
          If we can dae withoot magistrates what’s the use a’ haein’ them?
        I wis reading 
          in the papers aboot one o’ the Bailies o’ some toon or anither wha wis 
          sentencing a prisoner, and he said, “Prisoner, God has given you health 
          and strength, and instead o’ that ye go about stealing hens.”  We’re better withoot a brilliant mind like 
          that.
        Oor principal 
          street here is no vera wide, but it serves its purpose weel eneuch, 
          and hae this advantage that the vera shortest-sichted body can read 
          the tickets in the shop windows on the ither side withoot goin’ aff 
          the pavement.  The pavement itsel’ is ten feet wide in some 
          places, and in ithers no three inches.  
          That, ye aee, gies everybody a choice; if ye’re no pleaaed wi’t 
          in one place ye can move on a few yards tae where it does suit you.  The hooses are built, some wi’ the gables tae 
          the street, and some wi’ the fronts, and some stickin’ oot and some 
          stickin’ in; in fac’, sae droll are they that ye wid maist think they 
          had been dancing a quadrille, an’ that some sudden shock had left them 
          a' stationary.  Tae my mind, hooever, it’s faur mair original 
          tae see them that way than in a hum-drum lime, no ane an inch beyond 
          the ither, and becoming a vera weariness in their monotony.
        Three or fower 
          weeks ago a lot o’ lettera apppeared in the papers aboot the dangers 
          o' folk crossing the railways.  Lod, 
          we think naething o’ that doon here.  
          The lines wi’ us rin richt thro’ the middle o’ the toon, and 
          ye’ll see barrows, carts, and lassies hurling perambulators, a’ trying 
          races wi’ the engines.  Even the weans playing at the “bools” or the 
          “peever” neier fash their thoom aboot the trains, but play awa’ within 
          a few inches o’ them, and yet naebody is ever hurt.  
          They’re as it were, acclimatised tae it.  As there’s nae bridge at the station ye’ll see the passengers running 
          across the rails, and twa porters haulin’ up an auld, fat wife oot o’ 
          the way of the approaching train.  We 
          perfectly un’erstaun each ither here, and when the engine whistle is 
          heard ye’ll see the vera horses rinning tae try an’ get thro’ afore 
          the gate is shut, so wise are they, and the engine goes kin o’ canny 
          tae gie them a chance.
        Oor spiritual 
          wants are weel looked aifter.  On 
          week days we hae the reputation o’ keeping a guid dram, frae the “Saracen’s 
          Head” o’ the auld coaching days, wi’ its French-like stable-yard and 
          its balconies, doon tae ony number o’ cozy, wee, auld-fashioned
        public-hooses 
          where, tae elderly folk like me, a refreshment tastes twice as sweet 
          as in ane o’ the gran’ Glasgow shops wi’ the mirrors an’ the ale pump­ing 
          machinery.
        On Sundays we 
          hae ample choice.  Oot o’ echt 
          kirks we hae twa o’ the auldest in Scotland, baith o’ them much alike.  As ye enter the kirkyard ye see a three-legged 
          stool in the open air wi’ the “plate” on it.  The first day I went, as there wis naebody 
          in sicht my weans werena for putting in their penny, and indeed I swithered 
          mysel’, but suddenly I saw the elder keekin’ oot o’ a wee hoose at the 
          back o’ the kirkyard door.  I 
          wisna sure at first whither he wis readin’ an inscription on ane o’ 
          the tombstanes or watching me, but I thocht I wid err on the safe side, 
          so the pennies were duly deposited, and I doot not by this time a coloured
        pocket-nepkin extra has been sent oot tae the Zulus.  
          The stairs tae the gallery are ootside o’ the building a’thegither, 
          so that when ye get tae the heid o’ them, and open the daor, ye are 
          in the kirk, touching the ceiling.  
          In ane o’ the kirks, hinging frae the roof, is a full-rigged 
          ship, a model o’ the clippers that used tae rin frae Saltcoats to Demerera—for, 
          min’ ye, Saltcoats wis once a great shipping place, and tae this day 
          we hae captains and captains’ widows in abundance.
        We don’t copy 
          your big toons aither; we chalk oot a line o’ oor ain; even oor milk
        cairts, instead o’ haeing your wee, paltry-lookin’ roon barrels, hae 
          fine, big, sqnare boxes that maist fill the cart and look substantial 
          like.  Even oor post office is unique.  It’s the front hauf o’ an ironmonger’s shop, 
          and when ye go in for a ha’penny stamp ye are sur­rounded by gless cases 
          full o’ frying pans, ashets, and goblets, which ye can study the time 
          the lassie is serving ye.
        But we hae oor 
          periods o’ excitement, tae, BAILIE.  
          No long ago they grippit a shark which they carried up to Kilmarnock 
          tae let the toon’s-folk see what like a beast it wis; and every noo 
          and again a circus comes and sets up its tent, and sen’s oot gran’ bills 
          showing the performers riding on their heids wi’ their legs going thro’ 
          a balloon.
        Then the Salvation 
          Army gied us a turn a while syne.  I 
          gie ye a copy o’ their proclamation.  
          When I read it first I thought it wis the French coming to bombard 
          the hale toon.  Here it is :-
        “Captain
        M'Phee, 
          the American tambourine player, and male and female warriors, with an 
          army of blood and fire soldiers, will march through Saltcoats on Tuesday 
          first, at 6 p.m.
        “6.30—Knee drill.
        “7—Spiking of 
          the enemy’s cannon.
        "7.30—Fire 
          and blazes along the whole line.
        “8.30—Surrender 
          of the entire opposing forces; red-hot gospel shots will be fired into 
          the devil’s ranks.
        “Happy Joe, 
          the champion pigeon-flyer, from Sheffield, will play on his hallelujah 
          fiddle.”
        We were ower 
          canny for them, hooever, so they hae shaken the dust aff their feet 
          at us, and gene tae pastures new.
        We hae a gran’ 
          Golf Club, at which I wis asked tae tak’ a haun, but I doot I’m ower 
          stiff noo; and we hae as much dynamite made every week, a mile frae 
          us, as wid blaw the hale o’ Roosia tae bits.  
          Then for fresh fish it bates a’.  
          Ye'll see the women coming up wi’ the fish every morning frae 
          the quay, an’ them that fresh they’ll be jumping oot o' the barrows 
          ontae the street.
        But above a’ 
          we hae lots o’ fresh air blawing richt in frae America, ye may say, 
          so ye can weel believe that the doctors here cry that it’s “miserably 
          healthy.”  There’s jist one hearse for the hale district; 
          and, indeed, I think it was here that the gravedigger said, “Trade wis 
          that bad that he hadna buried a leevin’ sowl for six weeks.”
        Glasgow folk 
          talk about Arran, and its hills, and its air, and they think they’re 
          weel aff if they can get a fortnicht at it in simmer, but here every 
          morning when I’m shaving I can see a’ the Arran hills, and inhale a’ 
          its breezes and the fine sautwater smell o’ cockles and wreck, withoot 
          needing tae risk the voyage ower on a coarse day.
        BAILIE, come 
          doon and see us, and I’ll gie ye a dram that’ll dae ye guid efter yer 
          dinner.