Joe Corrie


HAMISH McCLURE, the postman-poet, knocked on my door the ither Sabbath mornin an asked if I'd care to hae a daunder wi him. "It's a glorious mornin," says he, "for viewin' an reflectin' upon the beauties o Natur, an the Lord haes gien us the Sabbath sae that we can enjoy His boons an His blessin's in peace."

Hamish is yin o the poetic sowls wha disna leuk it. He haes nae hair left on his pate ; his nose is on the big size to fit his face properly, an due to mony years in the service o the Post Office, his feet are as flet as flounders. But, despite his poetic weakness, he's no a bad sowel. Sae we decided to hae a leisurely walk alang the banks o the Cree, which, in Hamish's ain wirds, contains a maisterpiece o poetry at every bend.

It was indeed a gem o a mornin ; there was hardly a cloud in the sky, an the birds were liltin cheerily. Hamish was in his uisual meditative mood, an I didna disturb him ; juist puffed awa at my pipe an thocht aboot naething. Then Hamish cam to a sudden stop, an said, wi his hand to his lug, "Hark! A lark!" Sae he teuk his notebook frae his pooch, stuck his pincil in his mooth, an sat doon on a tree stump to record his inspiration. I sat doon on the gress wi my back to him to gie him every opportunity to meditate.

I'm a very considerate companion to a poet, but I was wishin' that my companion an this occasion haed been Rabbie Burns an no Hamrsh. He feenished his poem in aboot five meenits-it never tak's him lang-an when he got up on his feet he says to me, "Tam, ye can aye say in future years that you was wi me when I wrote the maisterpiece 'The Lark Abuin the Cree.'" I said I was highly honoured, juist to please him.

We toddled on in silence for a guid bit durin which Hamish got inspiration frae a daisy, a watter hen, an a puddock. Oh, Hamish is no particular aboot his subjects, everything is grist to his poetic mill.

Then seein a wheen o kye in the distance I asked him if he'd ever written a poem aboot a coo. He said he haedna, but why no, it haed a coat like silk, an provided us wi milk. He teuk oot his beuk, but seemed to get stuck for rhymes. Then shadin' my e'en to the sun I saw a fermer body standin on a knowe wavin' a stick at us. I drew Hamish's attention to it. Then the man started to shout an whistle at us in nae uncertain mainer.

"Oho !" said Hamish, "anither lord o the isles, is it, tellin' us that we're trespassin' an to get aff his grun' at wanst?" Then, kennin fine that the fermer wadna hear him he shouted back, "I'm standin on the land that my forefaithers, Bruce an Wallace, focht for, an I'm no turnin back for you !" But I was gettin' the impression frae the gymnastics o the fermer that he was tryin' to draw oor attention to something ahin us. Sae I leuked back, an what did I see comin alang the peth but a muckle black bull, wi his heid doon, an leukin at us throu its ee-broos.

"Leuk ahin' ye, Hamish," said I, "an you'll get inspiration for a fine poem." It was a saicont or twa before Hamish realised that we were in mortal danger o oor lives. Then, pouin doon the snoot o his bunnet, he shouted to me. "Clachaneasy!" an made a bolt for it. Noo, that was ridiculous for we were a mile or twa frae the Clachan. In fact it was ridiculous o him tryin' to run ava for he's short-sichted, short-winded, an haes nae oil in the joints o his knees. If he haed waited a minute to let us hae a conference I wad hae suggested standin oor grun' an shoutin', "Boo!" But as he haed fled, wi twenty yairds o a start, an the bull was gettin' nearer, I didna want to desert him in his 'oor o peril, sae aff I went, tae, only I forgot to pou doon my bunnet.

Sae there we were, wi aboot forty yairds o a start, twa auld men, an a bull juist in its prime. An there was nae escape route as far as I could see. Hamish, o course, tripped an fell, an I fell ower him, which put him in the danger zone, but we haedna time to coont oor wounds, for leukin doon the watter I could see the bull comin, the steam shootin' oot its nose. Sae I pou'd Hamish to his feet, an said, "Follow me!" I could hear Hamish shoutin', "Peggy! Peggy!" that was his wife. But Peggy wad be busy stewin' the steak for his denner, an listenin-in to the peacefu peal o the kirk bells, sae he was juist wastin' his wind.

By this time I could hear the snortin' o the bull, which meant that if we didna think quick we wadna be able to think ava. Sae I shouted to Hamish, "The watter!" Sae I teuk a quick jouk to the left thinkin I juist haed to walk into the watter, but I didna realise till I stepped forward that I was on a bank, sae doon I went into fower feet o ice-cauld Cree. Hamish ran past the bit, then seein I wisna there, he turned back, an insteed o leukin me in the e'en he was leukin at the bull. Sae did the fuil o a man no mak a jump juist where I was an fell richt on the tap o me, knockin me doon to the bottom. An when I got up again, blawin the watter frae my mooth like a whale, he didna even apologise.

Weel, there we were again, twa victims to the rheumatics, the watter whiles swirlin' up to oor oxters, leukin at a bull wi chitterin teeth, an the bull leukin at us wonderin' what we were dain' there.

"W-w-w-w-e . . . ca-a-a-na stey here a d-d-day, Tam," says Hamish. "It de-e-e-pends on the b-b-b-ull," says I. An the bull seemed to be in nae hurry for it started aetin gress, juist leukin at us noo an again to mak shuir that we were still leivin'. Then Hamish says to me. "Tam, d'ye ken you've lost your bunnet ?" Lost my bunnet! An me sein' mysel lyin in bed for the next six months wrapped up in hot watter bottles. The fermer by this time haed sauntered oot o sicht, sayin to himsel, nae dout. "They're safe eneuch noo." An dinna try to tell me that bulls canna lauch.

Then I realised that I wad have to tak the initiative, sae I said. "We'll need to wade back doon ; an in case we dae come to a big hole, I'll lust say fereweel the noo, an wish ye a' the best." But a' that he could say was, "You'll get cauld withoot your bunnet." If he haed kent what I thocht at that moment o baith poets an postmen he wad hae refrained frae readin his customers' comic postcairds for ever efter.

Weel, we started awa on oor return journey, like the fishermen o Gallilee, makkin shuir we haed yin fit on the sands o Life before we lifted the ither, stoppin' noo an again to leuk back at the bull, which didna seem to be worryin' aboot us ony mair. Sae, seein a gate aboot forty yairds in front o us I said to the poet. "We'll get oot here an mak a bolt for that gate." An a' that he could say was, "Ye micht finnd your bunnet." Man, I was sae wild that I scrambled oot an shouted to him, "Every man for himsel." But he was oot afore me, an shakin himsel like a dug. But he didna get lang to shake himsel, for the bull saw us an lost nae time gettin' aff its mark. An ye talk aboot dain the hunner yairds in fower seconds! Thae sprinters juist think they can run. We baith got to the gate thigither, an tried to get ower thigither, an, o course, got stuck on the tap. But that didna last lang for the bull got the tap bar wi its horns an sent us baith heids ower heels. But we kent we were safe by then, an juist lay on oor backs till we got oor wind back.

We haed to tak a' the back weys to get hame, o course, an for a guid job Maggie was oot. Sae I made mysel a gless o hot toddy an got into my ither claes. When Maggie got hame she was lauchin like to burst her steys-the story was a' throu the too. An yet we thocht we haedna seen a leivin' sowel.

But it lets ye see the inconsistencies o Fate. Ye gang oot for a paecefu Sabbath walk, wi'd poet at that, an only by the mercy o Providence ye dinna see your daith in the "Gazette" at the end o the week.