Aberdeenshire Tales



Aberdeenshire Tales...


Aberdeenshire has a rich and expressive Doric, which George MacDonald and William Alexander and Charles Murray have done much to preserve in its purity and to make all Scotsmen proud of. And the following fragments have value both for their language and for their humour.

The late Mr Ingram, minister of the Free Church at Rothiemay, used to tell of a man in that neighbourhood who had married the tenant of a small farm, and was asked one day by a neighbour how he was getting on. "Man," he said, "gien I'd kent it was sic peer lan', I widna hae fashed wi' Betty."

Mr Bain of the Free Church at Pitcaple was notorious for the length of his ministrations. He could not give out the first Psalm without dilating on some point it suggested; he gave a tedious commentary - it could hardly be called a running one - on the Scripture lesson; and in the sermon he would talk at large for more than an hour. And here is how one put it who had sat and suffered under him. "Man," he said to his new minister in Aberdeen, "Maister Bain wis juist like an ill-fashioned coo that's gotten in amo' the corn - she taks a rive here an' a rive there." Less picturesque yet quite good as a description of the preacher who is always going off at a tangent is what an Elgin man said of an Aberdeen minister - "He couldna keep to the road, he wis aye rinnin' up a closie."

When the Free Church was being built in Bucksburn, an elder in the parish church stopped one day to see how things were getting on, and said, mocking, to one of the masons, "Ay, Jeems, that's a gey grainary ye're pittin' up here." "Oh ay," retorted the mason, "ye see the cauffhoose is up the hill" - the reference of course being to Newhills parish church. Some forty years ago there lived in Bucksburn a woman, two of whose sayings are worth remembering. She was talking one day of a sister or niece who was ill, and the minister's mother (Mrs Russell, mother of Rev James A Russell, minister of Bucksburn Free Church and afterwards of Causewayend Church, Aberdeen) asked sympathetically what was wrong with her. "Eh, Mrs Russell," was the reply, " she luikit inta eternity an' gaed by hersel." As a description of religious melancholia, that could hardly be beaten. Another time, when the woman was again in trouble, a son having behaved badly and lost a lot of her money, Mrs Russell went to see her and did her best to comfort her. "Nae doot," she said, weeping and wiping her eyes with here apron, "Nae doot, Mrs Russell, as ye say, it's the Lord's wull"; and then, flinging down her apron and straightening herself - "but nivertheless it's verra provikin'."

Rev W Cruickshank, for many years minister of the Free Church at Inverurie, set out one day to take the Fast-Day service at Fyvie. A trap met him at the station, but the horse was so poor that Mr Cruickshank suggested to the driver that he might drive a little harder. After a bit, as they passed a farm steading, some geese came out upon the road with a great "skeelach," and the horse, somewhat scared, went off at a gallop. Soon however it fell back into its former amble, and when the minister, beginning to fear he would be late for his appointment, told the man he must get on faster, he at last got an answer - the man's sole remark during the whole journey: "Od, I think that horse wad be better wi' a geese aye at 'is tail."

But the shrewdest and canniest of all Aberdeenshire stories is the following :- Somewhat late in life a Buchan farmer married a young wife. When they got home after the honeymoon, he took her over the house, and then when after the round, they sat down at the fireside, he said, "Noo, ma lassie, ye've seen the hoose, an' it micht be as weel to mak' a bit o' a bargain at the verra ootset. Ye're to get a' yer ain wy, ye ken, but ye're no' to get ony o' mine."

Scottish Life and Humour of Yesterday
by John Lendrum