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The Character of the North-East Local....

 

The Nor' East contains some of the finest types of the true Scot.  They smell of their soil; the smoke of the peat is about them.  A very large part of the national drink is brewed in Banffshire.  The two counties of Banff and Aberdeen contain a fair proportion of the old-fashioned people, among whom popular traditions linger long and the customs of the forefathers are conserved and continued; while in Buchan the purest Doric is still spoken, and every parish possesses its Braeside and its Drumsheugh.

The people are somewhat shy and reticent.  When you meet them the speech at first is of the weather.  They hide themselves, as every real man does, in their ordinary intercourse.  It is only in confidential moments that they drop the mask and show their soul.  And it is he who can catch the psychological moment that will get the flavour of the native wine and the humour of the native point of view.

The said point of view may be that of the fisher, or the farmer, or the crofter. The first of these has a very distinct and settled place of his own around the north-east corner.  He is an asset of large monetary value to-day.  And he knows his worth.  When Professor Cossar Ewart came to this quarter to lecture on the habits of herring, the Banffshire fisher thought the thing superfluous.  A big fellow at the first lecture, with his lips perhaps loosened with a drop of drink, rose and walked out, exclaiming, "Wha sent ye here to tell hus aboot herrin'?"

And the cottar too has his point of view.  He is the backbone of the counties and of the kirks.  The following talk with one of my crofters, at the time of Mr Chamberlains's famous proposals, will set if forth: "It's nae joke, sir, to be a crafter nooadays.  Ye canna wirk a craft wi' yer feet on the fender, I asseer ye.  It tak's a' yer time and yer tent to mak' ends meet."  "But are not three acres and a cow," I asked, "the ideal of a crofter's life?"  "Oh ay, ye like yer joke, I see.  But Chaumerlain didna ken muckle aboot crafts when he gaed that gate.  Ae awcre and three coos, or three awcres and ae coo, it wad be a' the same to him.  He kent mony things, but nae muckle aboot Scotch crafts.  In fac', naebody kens aboot craft to ken its Possibeelities.  Ilka bit field hes its ain wye o' growin' girss.  There's a hantle o' learnin', sir, to be got frae a craft."

In both cases the natural Conservatism of the Nor' East is remarkable.  Its very Liberalism is conservative.  It stands by it as its fathers stood.  The Nor' East is very slow to change.  Trawling came to Fife and Forfar, but it never was accepted in the Moray Firth.  Even the steam-drifter took many a day to win the hearts of the Banffshire fishermen from the old scaffie and the zulu boat.  Slowly among the farmers the new and useful binder is superseding the older customs.  Forty years ago I can remember the hook and the scythe on all the crofts....

The Nor' East
by W S Bruce
1915