Joe Corrie


WHEN my brither Wull, wha leives in a but-an-ben cothoose beyond Kircowan, sent us invitation to his dochter Netty's waddin, I leuked at Maggie ower my specs an said, "There's no much room in oor Wull's hoose for a waddin; it'll be gey warm for twa auld folk like us." But she stopped readin the deaths in The Gazette, teuk aff her specs an said, "Netty Lowrie is your niece an we're gaun." Sae that was it settled again.

Noo, Maggie is very insistent on respectability on ceremonial occasions, an that meant the stiff collar, the bowler hat, an the new buits which bring the cauld sweat oot on me every time I see her polishin' them. It was the very worst time o the year for corns tae. An to get to oor Wull's frae the bus-stop you've got to walk a guid three quarters o a mile up a steep an stany road, which wisna a very pleasant prospect.

Hooever the fatefu' day cam, an efter hauf a dizzen explosions o temper, I was ready for the road, bowler hat an a'. When we got to the bus there was only yin vacant sate, which, o course, Maggie teuk possession o, an I haed to stand an hing on for grim daith. Somebody asked me if I was gaun to a funeral, an when I said, "What mak's ye think that ?" he said, "The leuk on your face, Tam." But I didna say a wird, juist thanked the Lord for blessin me wi infinite patience.

When we got up the rocky road to Dublin I was gey thankfu I can tell ye. I wanted to tak aff my collar an buits for a wee while to recover, but Maggie said. "An what if ye canna get them on again-eh ?" Sae I juist gae my neck a twist, an curled my taes inside my buits, teuk aff my bowler hat an wiped the sweat frae my broo wi my hankie.

When we got these the bridal pairty haed juist gotten back frae the manse, where the mairrage haed been solemnised. At the minister's suggestion, an oor Wull was gaun aboot wi a bottle o whisky fillin' glesses. He was mair than liberal wi my allowance, for which I was very gratefu, altho I saw Maggie leukin at my gless throu the side o her e'en in a maist disapprovin' mainer. But she didna get lang to leuk at it, I can tell ye.

Wee Netty, the bride, was quite flushed, an leuked raither bonnie, I thocht. But when I was introduced to the man wha haed gotten her, a big, turnip-faced gowkie leukin chap, I wondered what oor Wull an his wife Jeannie haed seen in him. But he was a plooman, an oor Wull thinks they're the finest race o men on this earth, him bein the king a' them a', o coorse. But mibbie the chap's hert was in the richt place, an that's the main thing.

We were in what Jeannie ca's the parlour, aboot twenty o us, an nae ventilation that I could see. It put me in mind o a pictur my mither used to hae ca'd "The Black Hole o Calcutta." An to mak things worse there was the strang smell o steak-pie comin in frae the kitchen. But everybody was very happy, which didna bring ony relief to my corns.

When the glosses were empty Wull herded us a' into the kitchen to dae a bit o aetin as he termed it. An hoo we managed is still a mystery to me, but it was the first time I realised that withoot sufficient elba room it is very difficult aetin steak-pie an haudin' on to table mainers at the same time. An by the time I was hauf wey throu I could hae wrung my shirt. But everybody was still happy, an there was a lot o lauchter, for which the Lord be thankit.

Then the parlour was cleared o its furniture-cairried oot to the garden amang the cabbages an leeks-an when I got back in, efter gettin' a braith o fresh air, oor Wull was rubbin' his fiddle-bow wi a lump o resin the size o his fist, sendin' up a cloud o stoor wi every rub. Wull hauds the fiddle juist the same as he hauds the ploo, an when he drew the bow doon the strings a squeal cam oot the instrument juist like a circular saw gaun throu a tree. An Maggie an me were put in a corner squeased tichter then we haed been since oor honeymoon, where, as Jeannie said, we could watch the ongauns in comfort.

Wull got up on a chair, clenched his teeth. an started to play. There was yin "Hooch !" frae the dancers that broucht some soot doon the chimley, an then they started to dance, if ye ca' yon dancin. They jumped the hicht o the ceilin', then doon they cam wi a' their weicht on the fluir till I thocht they'd gae richt throu it ; they yelled, an they crossed, an they cleckit, an they sweeled, their e'en starin' in their heids an leukin richt throu each ither. Leukin oot the wee windae I saw the hens an cocks fleein for their very lives, thinkin that the end o the warld haed come.

When the first dance cam to an end, an they a' sat doon, maistly on the fluir, I leuked at Maggie ; she was as white as a sheet for I think she got yin o the biggest frichts o her life.

For the next dance oor Wull sat on the windae-sill, but suin forgot whre he was an knocked oot a pane o gless wi his elba, but that didna maiter-it wisna every day that a dochter was mairried.

Efter that dance the plooman chaps teuk aff their collars an ties an jaikets an put them oot on the furniture. Then we haed anither dram, which I was mair in need o than the first. Then Wull said it was time for a sang. He haunit me his fiddle to tak care o, then disappeared-nae dout to hae a dram on the sly, for oor Wull, yince he starts, haes a great capacity.

"Come on, Rab Wilkie," somebody shouted, "you start for you're the best singer in the company." "nae dout aboot that," was the reply. An Rab squared his hsouthers against the waa, a big strappin fella wi reid hair an a square jaw. "Order for the sang !" he shouted oot. He teuk in a deep braith, turned his e'en up to the ceilin', an let ahowl oot o him that wad hae wakened the deid. He sang for aboot ten meenits, but he must have haed a marble in his mooth, or mibbie he was singin in Gaelic, for I didna ken a wird he was howlin'. Hooever, the rest were pleased, an my opeenion didna maiter.

Wull cam back an teuk the fiddle, an they danced again. Then he put his fiddle doon on the windae-sill an said, "Time for anither sang," an disappeared again.

The next performer was a buxom wumman aboot sixteen stane o solid country flesh. She sang "Ca' the Yowes," which I thocht was very guid, an juist as Wull cam back, the wumman, flushed wi excitement, sat doon on the windae-sill, forgettin that Wull's fiddle was there. Man, he let a howl oot o him, an he pou'd her doon, an he cursed an swore, an talked aboot his fiddle bein worth thoosands o pounds. An the next thing I saw was the wumman's man grippin' Wull by the collar an aboot to knock his heid aff. O coorse there was a scramble to separate the twa, the weemin' sccreamin', an some o them greetin. Then Wull shouted, "come oot to the gairden an we'll see wha's the best man," an Wull pou'd the man oot. The next meenit the hale congregation was ootside an Maggie an me were left oor twa sel's.

"Gie me the peace an quietness o a funeral every time, Maggie," said I. "You're no far wrang, Tam," said she, "but we micht hae kent, for that temper o Wull's comes oot every time he tak's a dram."

There was a great commotion gaun on ootside, I could hear Netty greetin. An Jeannie screamin', then I heard a man shoutin', "Ach, let them gae at it an kill each ither if they want to, it's nane o oor business onywey." Sae we kent the fecht was on.

"Com eon, Maggie," says I, "we'll slip oot the back door an get awa hame, for I dinna want to be landed as a witness in a coort o law." Sae we slipped doon the dyke side til we got on the road. When I leuked back oor Wull, stripped to the waist, was loupin' six feet in the air, his airms gaun like a windmill. An the shrieks o the weemen !

We saw the bus comin a guid bit awa, an we haed to run, but thank goodness my corns stuid up to the occasion, an we were juist in time to get it.

An the next time I met Wull he was fair bleesin'. "Leavin us ithoot sayin," he said, "as if ye haedna been enjoyin' yousel'."

O coorse, oor Wull's enjoyments are different frae onybody else's, or he'd be a better fiddler than he thinks he is. But I didna tell him that.