Joe Corrie


YINCE a year in The Gazette you'll see an 'In Memorium' "In lovin memory o my dear Billy, wha departed frae this warld on Aprile the First-His kindly face I see before me, in Heeven, I ken, he'll still adore me. Inserted by Nancy McLatchie." The folk o the toon are a bit puzzled, because Billy McLatchie haed oucht but a kindly face, an Nancy haedna a day's peace wi him a' her mairried life. In fact, she made nae secret o it that she was michty gled to get rid o him. But what the folk didna ken is that the memorium isna to her man, Billy, ava, but to Billy, the goat, that was her only consolation for mony a lang year. An altho nane o us want to be reminded aboot the war, the mention o the goat brings back to my mind the nicht when the hale toon got the fricht o oor lives.

It was the time o Dunkirk, when we a' thocht that the Germans wad risk an invasion, an we haed a' been duly warned free baith platform, pulpit, an the Press, that if sic a thing did happen the kirk bell wad ring sae that we could be prepared to meet the fae. We haed naething to meet the fae wi apairt frae picks an shovels an bill-hooks an garden rakes an stirrup pumps an hat peens, but that didna maiter, the fae haed to be met an every possible resistance offered. There was lots o things we haed to dae, ower numerous to mention here, but which haed been printed in a wee beuk which haed been haunit in at every door.

Hooever the days an the nichts went by an naething happened, sae we settled doon to peace an quiet again. But yin nicht, juist efter it was dark, when I haed got my black-oot fixed to my satisfaction, an Maggie was kittin' for the sodgers, an I was juist aboot to sit doon wi "The Tales o the Borders," when clang! clang! clang! the kirk bell started to ring. Maggie jumped to her feet shoutin', "The Germans are here! The Germans are here!" an started to run aboot the hoose, wavin' her airms like a wumman demented. Bein on the A.R.P. the first thing I thocht aboot was puttin' on my armlet an gettin' my stirrup pump, but Maggie haed gotten into sic a state that I haed to concentrate on gettin' her nerves settled. But by this time I could hear a terrible commotion ootside. I could hear Donald Ferrier, the blacksmith, tearin' past blawin his whistle wi a' his po'er ; then John Strang, the polissman, runnin' efter him shoutin' to him that it was against the rules an regulations ; when we haed the screamin' weemen, an greetin weans, an a' the various noises o an invasion panic.

Bein calm an collected I kent that was nae guid sae I started searchin' in the dresser drawer. "What are ye leukin for ?" shouted Maggie, tearin' her hair by this time. "I'm leukin for the rules an regulations," says I. "An will ye be able to pretect me frae the germans wi a wee paper beuk ?" says she. "Lock the door an keep quiet." I was juist gaun to turn the key when there was a tremendous lood knockin' on the door. The next thing I saw was Maggie scamperin' alow the bed, an I jouked a bit to the side in case a bullit should ome throu the letter box. B|ut it was juist Walter Wamphrey, the heid yin o the A.R.P. shoutin', "Invasion warnin! Invasion warnin! Every able-bodied man on duty at ance!" Man, when I heard that, an the greetin o the wee weans ootside, the Scottish bluid surged in my veins. Sae leavin Maggie alow the bed I put on my fire-fechtin' helmit, teuk the gully oot the drawer, an breenged oot to save my country. I breenged richt into the mangle in the scullery an struck the handle wi my broo, but it only made my bluid boil the mair.

When I got ootside I could still hear the kirk bell clangin', tho no juist as lood an regular as at the beginnin as if Adam Shaw, the bellman, haed let the nerves get the better o him. It was a very dark nicht, I mey say, an a' I could gae by was the noises. I stuid for a minute to get my bearin's then I could hear Walter Wamphrey in the distance shoutin', "Every firefighter must have his stirrup pump!" Sae back I haed to gae to get my pump, forgettin aboot the mangle again, which made my bluid boil even mair. A' I could see o Maggie was still her beamend, but as she seemed to think herself' safe eneuch there I didna say oucht, juist collected my pump, an the coil o rubber hose, an got oot again, gropin' my wey across the brig, the pump alow my airm like a set o pipes, an the hose trailin' ahin' me.

By the time I got to the Cross I was seein a bit better, an was witnessin' a sicht that I'll never forget. Major Standfast haed got his Hame Gaird mustered, an there they stuid, as odd a leukin mixtur as ever defended Sotland. He said a few wirds o encouragement to them in a tremblin voice-something aboot the dear land o their birth-the freedom o their race-an the honour o fa'in in battle for the sake o their weemen an children. Then he gae the orders to mairch, an aff they went up the toon, oot o step, mibbie, but wi a grim determination. The soond o their mairchin feet gae us a' a wee thing o confidence. A wheen o us said, "Hear! Hear!" which I found was a great consolation, for we were dain' something.

Then a man standin beside me said, "Let us dae or dee, Tam." To my surprise when I leuked close at him it was Adam Shaw, the bell-ringer. I was aboot to ask him wha was deputisin' at the bell when we heard the sodgers comin back again. An juist then to oor mortal relief, the bell stopped ringin, which was the sign that the danger, if ony, was past. Sae we cheered again, an were kind o gled, tae, for the Germans wad hae got a terrible massacreein'. Weel, we' a' relaxed, wiped the caul sweat frae oor broos, an Major Standfast haed dismissed his forces, efter complimentin' them on their coolness an courage in the face o imminent danger, when, jigger me ; if the bell didna start ringin again, this time in the maist erratic mainer.

Weel, the invasion started a' ower again ; the troops were mairched up the street, this time gey angry, by the thumpin' o their heels. The weans started to greet again, an stirrup pumps were gripped in firm, if sweaty hands. Then Adam Shaw wha haed been bidin' gey close to me for protection, said "I'd like to ken wha's ringin that bell ?" "Weel," says I, gey annoyed at the man, "can ye no gae an see ! We'll defend the toon till ye come back again." But it was then I realised that the man was feart. Sae I said to him, "Come on, I'll gae wi ye!" "But it micht be yin o the Germans in advance, Tam!" "If twa Scotsmen canna be a match for yin German." says I, "peety help Gallawa'!" I kent, o coorse, that whaever was ringin the bell couldna be a German. Sae I said, "Follow me!" An aff we went, stottin' aboot in the dark. Noo, the door to the belfry was open, which surprised Adam, an he hesitated. "Hae ye got a torch ?" says I. "I hae, Tam," says he, throu his chitterin teeth. "Then tak it oot your pooch an press the button." But when he did a' I could see ower his shouther was twa glarin' e'en. Ye talk aboot a fricht. But we didna get time to be frichted lang. Before I kent where I was Adam was knocked aff his feet wi a terrible bang, an, stottin' against me, I went doon a' my weicht, tae, the stirrup pump gettin' me richt in the ribs, an juist in time for me to see a white thing jumpin' past utterin' a yell o fricht. Aye, Nancy McLatchie's goat Billy, that haed been chewin' at the bell rope.

It was a minute or twa before baith Adam an me got oor wind back, an oor sanity restored. Then, sittin there, wi oor backs to the waa o the kirk, I says to him, "Adam, never a ward aboot that goat. We must let the toon think that it stuid up bravely at the first signal o mortal danger." He sheuk hands wi me an swore eternal silence. But noo that Adam is nae mair, an the war is a thing o the past, I needna keep the secret ony langer. But if it haed been the Germans insteed o a billy goat, by the hockey they wad have got a paikin'.