Joe Corrie


NANCY BLAIKIE was a savin' wee body; no that she ever got much to save frae Billie, her man, for he wad hae spent a mint o money if he'd haed it; fond o his dram, an used to bet on horses, tae ; yin o the kind that was aye winnin hunners o pounds, an moochin' a bob frae ye when he was tellin' ye. A wee Jeck-in-the-box, he was, wi a temper like a gemme bantie cock. Ye cauldna say a wird to him but aff wad come his ,jaikit, an he'd dance roon' aboot ye threatenin' what he'd dae to ye, till ye started to tak aff your ain jaikit, then he wad say he was a puir man wha couldna tak a joke.

Wee Nancy led a terrible life wi him. Mony a Setterday nicht she'd come runnin' into oor hoose, wi her fower wee weans, to sit roon' the fire until she was shuir Billie was in his bed.

Nancy did a bit o dress-makkin for the neebors, an tried to save what she could wi her earnin's to prepare for ony rainy day that micht come. An ony odd six-pences or shillin's she used to put in a pirly pig which stuid on the dresser. Noo an again she'd empty the pirly an tak the siller to the Post Office to put it in her savin's accoont. But she was aye suspicious that there should hae been mair in the pirlie, jalousin' that Billie haed been busy wi the knife when her back was turned.

Sae yin day when she was in the Post Office she got yin o the metal kind that have to be opened wi a key before ye can tak the money oot, the key bein kept in the Post Office for domestic security reasons. An this was put on the dresser tap beside the pirlie.

Billie saw it, polished up an shinin, an leukin at him wi a defiant smile. But he didna say oucht ; he couldna withoot gi'in' himsel awa. I didna see him, but I bet he wad be wild.

I kent naething abaot this, o course, until yin nicht when I was passin by his coal-hoose I heard a terrible cursin' an swearin' gaun on, an noo an then a lood thud as if the coal hoose was bein knocked doon. Sae, thinkin that he was mibbie murderin' wee Nancy. I lost nae time in openin the door. He turned roon' wi a jump.

"What dae you want in here ?" says he. I could see that he was cut aboot the broo, an there was coal dust on his face as weel.

"What's the cairy on, Billie ?" says I, for he was standin there wi a lang-shafted hammer in his hand. "Can ye lend me a couple o shillin's ?" says he. "What d'ye want it for ?" says I. "Sae ye want my insurance policy as security," says he, "before ye can trust me-eh?" "I was juist askin'," says I. "An at the same time ye were sayin to yoursel that ye wadna gie it to me-eh ? Weel ye can keep it for I dinna want it-see!" Then he turned his back to me, lifted the hemmer till it struck the ruif o the coal-hoose, then doon he cam wi it wi a' his weicht ahin' it-bang! Then he uttered a howl as if he was killed, for he haed broucht the hammer doon on his taes. He gae me a shuv that sent me stottin' ootside, then he got into the yaird an hopped aboot on yin fit, cursin' an swearin' ye never heard the like.

"Aye, lauch!" says he, 'laugh-ye auld cuddy!" I wisna lauchin ava, juist curious to ken what haed been gaun on in the coel-hoose. "But dinna think I'm bate," says he, "no, by Jove ; the Post Office'll never bate me."

Sae in he went to the coal-hoose again, an threw oot this wee bank I was tellin' ye aboot, only there was a guid deal o the polish aff it by this time, an it was a guid bit oot o shape. Then oot he comes wi the hammer which he threw doon beside the bank till he rowed up his sleeves to the oxters, an spat on his hands. He glowered at me an showed his teeth like a weasel that haed been cornered. Then he put the wee bank on a stane, teuk a step back, drew in his braith, an doon wi the hammer. An a guid job I ducked or I'd got my brains knocked oot, for he didna get the bank fair an square an it shot ower my heid like a ba' oot o a cannon, makkin a dent in the brick waa at my back that can be seen to this day.

"That was a' your faut," says he, "for if ye haedna been leukin at me I wadna hae missed it." He picked it up again an put it doon on the same stane. "What are ye tryin' to dae ?" says I. "Oot o here !" says he, "for it I dinna burst that this time I'll burst something else !"

Sae, no hivin a suit o airmour on I said to him, "Weel, suspend the attack until I get under cover." Sae I lost nae time in gettin' on the safe side o the waa, where I haed to stand on my tip-taes to see the bombardment o the Post Office Savin's Bank.

The next onslaught was a change o tactics ; he swung the hammer ower his heid like a hammer-man in a smiddy, an doon he broucht the hammer, fair an square on the wee metal box. Then he leuked at me an said, "Ye ken what to dae wi your twa shillin's noo." Ah, but when he lifted the box hopin' he'd knocked the bottom oot o it, he was greatly mistaken. Nae dout it was weel bashed at the sides, but the bottom haed stuid fast, an I said to him, "Billie, when we talk aboot a thing bein Clyde built it means that it's indestructable."

He leuked at me, but he didna say oucht, juist turned the wee box upsides doon, an was aboot to he'e anither welt at it, when wha should come on the scene but John Strang, the polissman. "Hullo!" says he, "what's gaun on here?" "An can I no dae what I like on my ain property," says Billie. "No wi Government property," says John. "Is that no a Post Office Savin's Bank?" "Juist wait a minute," says Billie, liftin' the hammer, "an you'll suin see what it is." An doon cam the hammer, I ducked, o course, hivin been forewarned but John didna, an the next thing I saw was his hat fleein ower the close. "What happened there?" said John, haudin' his hand ower his bald heid. But before John could collect the battered bank Billie was throu the gate an haed it back on the execution block again, an was beltin' it Wi the hammer, short strokes but wi a' the pith he could muster.

When John haed collected his hat an was leukin respectable again he went throu the gate to arrest the bank, but Billie wadna have that. "Have ye a warrant to cam on to my property?" says he.

John examined the wee bank frae every angle, then he said, "Frae my investigation ye have been hittin' this wi a blunt instrument." In the name o goodness, I thocht to mysel, nae wander crime is on the increase.

"I've been hittin' it wi this," says Billie, "ye can see for yourself' whether it's blunt or no." Sae John examined the hammer, then said. "What I suspected. An mey I ken the reason why ?" says he. "Inside that box," says Billie "there's money belangin' to me." "An you're tryin' to get it oot ?" says John. "No," says Billie, "I was knockin' mair shillin's into it." John leuked at me as much as to say, "Could the shillin's no be shuvved in wi the finger ?"

But, for some reason or anither, he haunit the bank back to Billie, an Billie started a' ower again, John bein quite an interested spectator. "That must be a wonderful bit o work," he says to me, "that can stand a' that bashin'."

By this time the bank was as flet as a flounder but still unconquered. Billie was exhausted an the sweat was juist poorin' oot o him. Then he lifted it up an sheuk it at his lug. Then he leuked at me wi his mooth wide agape. "What's wrang noo, Billie?" says I. "Empty!" says Billie, "Empty!" Then he teuk a runnin' jump an threw it doon the garden wi a' his strength. I heard it licht in the Cree wi a terrible splash. He threw the hammer in the coal-hoose, an went into the kitchen bangin' the door ahin' him. "What wad ye ca' that?" says John to me. "An unsuccessful bank robbery, John," says I, as I left him scratchin' his bald heid.