Rough Scan
 

 

 

 



 
        
       
        THE LESSONS QUESTION
         
         
        THERE was a 
          great noise, BAILIE, a while ago aboot "cramming” in skuils, an’ 
          there was letters written tae the papers aboot it an’ a’ thegither.
        Being a member 
          o’ the Skuil Brod, of course I couldna but see there wis need for an 
          inquiry, an’ I wis going tae throw mysel’ intae the fray and be the 
          champion o’ the doon-trodden ratepayers, wha, in thae days o’ philanthropy, 
          hae their noses kept gey sair tae the grindstane.  
          But I happened tae speak tae a freen o’ mine wha is a Toon
        Cooncillor, 
          an’ he says— “Mr Kaye, dinna you interfere, let them fecht awa’ among 
          themsel’s.  If ye interfere it wid only lower your dignity.  
          I’m sure ye micht see that!  When the Toon Cooncil is abused for the bad 
          gas, or the bungling o’ the municipal building plans, or putting an 
          extra penny on the polis tax, they never fash their thoom.  
          Never condescend, Mr Kaye, tae bandy words or argue wi’ your 
          inferiors, an’ they’ll think a’ the mair o’ ve.”
        BAILIE, I tbocht 
          it wisna bad advice, an’, besides, it was a heep easier tae say naething 
          aboot it, so I held my tongue an‘ it blew bye.
        Hoover, the 
          ither nicht, it cropped up again.  In 
          my capacity o’ elder, I wis paying a visit tae Mr M’Callum, a decent 
          bricklayer in Stra’bungo, an’ him an’ me had a crack aboot the blawing 
          up o’ the gasometer.  His wife 
          was darning stockings at the time, an’ a’ the bairns were roon the table 
          learning their lessons.
        “Ye see, Mr 
          Kaye, if it wis an escape—”
        “Faither, wis 
          Robinson Crusoe a black man?”
        “No, no, lassie, 
          he belanged tae Fife.  Weel, 
          Mr Kaye, as I was saying, if it wis an escape—”
        “Father, who 
          discovered the Fiji Islands?"
        “I don’t know 
          — do you, Mr Kaye?”
        “Of course,” 
          Says I, "it, was Christopher Columbus.  
          Weel, Mr M’Callum, as ye were saying, if it wis an escape—”
        “Aye, Mr Kaye, 
          if it wis an escape, ye see—”
        “Oh, father, 
          hoo d’ye divide six by fourteen, an’ five remains?”
        “Gracious me,” 
          says iMr M’Callum, “will ye let Mr Kaye an’ me alane — work it oot yersel’.  
          Weel, Mr Kaye, as I was saying, if it wis an escape, ye see—”
        “Father, could 
          Adam talk Gaelic?”
        "Great
        criftens,” says Mr M’Callum, wiping his broo, “Mr Kaye, d’ye hear this 
          — ye are a member o’ the Skuil Brod, an’ at yet ye look on calmly at 
          me being martyred slowly at my ain fireside — the only minute I get 
          to mysel’, an’ this is the way I am tormented.  
          Ever since this Government grant began, the bairns are driving 
          me wild wi’ their questions — thae letters tae the papers stopped it 
          for a wee, but noo it’s as bad as ever; indeed, this wee while it’s 
          goin’ ower the score a' thegither.  Can ye dae naething, Mr Kaye?”
        “I can,” says 
          I; “put on your hat an’ come awa’ an' see Mr Robison, the head
        skuilmaster.”
        So awa’ we gaed 
          an’ were ushered in.  Mr Robison 
          had a party o’ twa or three freens, and wis busy telling a story when 
          suddenly I turns roon an’ says: “Mr Robison, if a herring an' a hauf 
          cost three bawbees, hoo much wid eleeven cost?”
        They a’ thocht 
          it wis a bit joke o’ mine, an’ laughed, an’ polite enough no’ to say 
          they had heard the guess before, so Mr Robison jist resumed his story, 
          but at the meenit when he wis getting tae an interesting bit I cries 
          oot—
        "Mr Robison, 
          could ye see as faur through a milestane as ony ither body?”
        Mr Robison didna 
          look vera pleased like, but he laughed an‘ starts wi’ his story again. 
           I let him go on a wee, an’ then I says—
        "D’ye ken 
          hoo mony beans mak’ five?”
        At this Mr Robison 
          looks at me an’ says—
        “I doot, Mr 
          Kaye, ye’ve been tasting before ye cam’ in, an’ I’m surprised at ye; 
          recollect,” he goes on wi’ dignity, “that although I’m a
        skuilmaster, 
          an’ in a manner your servant, recollect that that’s only during working 
          hours; noo I’m free, an’ ye’ve no richt tae come here an’ ask sich questions.”
        “Mr Robison,” 
          says I, “dinna get angry — keep calm — I’m only gieing ye a bit taste 
          o’ what ye prescribe tae ithers.  Here’s 
          my freon, Mr M’Callum, d’ye think he shouldna hae a wee while o’ leisure 
          as weel as you?  I doot ye’re 
          inconsistent, Mr Robison; ye sit doon at your ain fireside at your ease, 
          but ye sen’ hame your scholars wi’ their lessons unexplained, an’ expect 
          their fathers an’ mothers tae explain this, that, an’ the ither thing.  
          My freen wis telling me he works free six tae six, gets one day’s 
          holiday Spring an’ Autumn, an’ a week at New Year, an' twa months in 
          the summer; forbye a hale holiday every Saturday, an' yet ye expect 
          him tae begin at nicht when he's tired tae explain tae hir bairns what 
          he pays you for doing.  No, no, 
          Mr Robison, ye have a gran' berth o’t; ye hae better pay than a minister, 
          or a sheriff, or a professor in the college.  
          Shakespeare says, ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire.’ 
        We dinna grudge ye your pay, but really ye mustna throw your 
          work on ither folks’ shoothers.  An’
        noo, Mr Robison, we’ve got the unpleasant part o’ the programme ower, 
          we’ll brew a wee drap mair toddy an’ ye’ll begin your story again.  Your guid health, gentlemen a’.  
          Noo, Mr Robison, gang on.  I 
          think ye had got tae the bit aboot the ghost beginning tae play ‘The 
          Campbells are coming’ on the Jew’s harp.”
        Weel, BAILIE, 
          tae mak’ a lang story short, I convened a meeting o’ the skuilmasters 
          under us, an’ showed them hoo unfair it wis tae send the bairns hame 
          wi’ their lessons unexplained, an’ hae them bothering their hard-worked 
          fathers, wha, worthy men, sometimes kent less aboot the subject than 
          the bairns themsel’s, an’ being sensible folk, they saw it; so noo in 
          the Govan parish, landward division, there’s nae sich thing as badgered 
          fathers or “crammed” bairns.