A Wheen Aul' Memories - Poem by Janet Hamilton
Wi' my haun on my haffit I sit by the fire,
An' think that for nocht I hae sic a desire
As to gang my auld gates, and see my auld places,
To hear the auld voices, and see the auld faces.
Whan a gilpy o' nine I was set doon to wark
At the auld spinnin' wheel, an' frae morning till dark
I spun, for my mither was thrifty an' snell,
An' wadna alloo me to jauk or rebel.
O licht was my heart, an' licht were my heels,
Whan, dune wi' the birrin' an' bummin' o' wheels,
I skelpit aff, barefit, the hie road alang,
Wi' a hap, stap, an' loup, an' a lilt o' a sing.
There was Willie the wabster, an' Tammy the douce,
At Merryston Brig they ilk ane had a hoose;
An' there wasna anither 'twixt that an' Coatbrig
But twa theekit dwallins, laigh, cozy, an' trig.
And syne ower the brig to auld Jamie's we cam,
At the sign o' twa Hielanders takin' a dram;
Then auld cadger Johnnie's, (we ca'd him Saut Jock),
Four mae bits o' dwallins, an' no mony folk.
Noo, min' what I tell ye, its sixty years lang
Since Coatbrig was juist what I said in my sang;
On the south o' the road wasna biggit a stane,
An' the hooses I speak o' they stood a' alane.
Then up the auld road I gaed scamperin' awa,
Weel kent I the gate to John Jamieson's raw,
Whaur in at the winnock the roses war keekin',
An' four bonnie lassies war needlin' an' steekin'.
An' the looms they were rattlin' an' blatterin' awa,
For in that wee shoppie the wabsters war twa-
Jock Tamson an' Jamie, a son o' the house,
An' wow but thae callans war cantie an' crouse.
It was there my young fancy first took to the wing;
It was there I first tasted the Helicon spring;
It was there wi' the poets I wad revel and dream,
For Milton an' Ramsay lay on the breast beam.
At auld auntie's winnock, whaur the hour-glass aye stood,
I aft keekit in e'er I dared to intrude,
For a woman baith gracious an' godly was she,
An' the Bible ye seldom wad miss aff her knee.
Puir crummie the cow had yae haf o' the smiddy,
In the ither auld John had his bellows an' studdy,
Sae the cow chow't her cud while she glower't ower the hallan
At John, who was rosy an' fresh as a callan.
Ilk mornin' an' e'enin' was heard the sweet psalm
In that laigh hamely dwallin', an' saftly an' calm
Fell the dew o' the Sabbath on labour an' strife,
An' their souls war refreshed at the fountains o' life.
Noo they're a' in the mools, an' there isna a stane
Left o' the auld biggin', son Jamie's his lane;
Wi' the tear in my e'e, an' a pow like the snaw,
I mourn for the days an' the folk that's awa.
Ye kenna, my cummers, ye never can ken
That my heid an' my he'rt, baith the but an' the ben,
Are fu' o' aul' memories. The ghaists o' the past,
Sum greetin', sum lauchin', cum thrangin' an' fast.
Whan we cam to the clachin', I min't like yestreen,
The hawthorn was white, an' the birk it was green,
An' the wild flouris war blumin' sae sweet to the e'e,
An' the bonnie May gowans war white on the lea.
An' the wuds o' Drumpeller war ringin' wi' glee,
An' the bairns thro' the plantins ran fearless an' free,
For the laird an' the leddy baith liket to see
A' things roun' them happy o' ilka degree.
An' nurses wi' bairns in white cleedin' wad glint
Thro' the trees, an' the wild, gentle laddies ahint
Wad cum, an' wi' chasin', an' racin', an' sang,
Gar the wild echoes ring the green wudlins amang.
There's nae simmer days like the simmer days then,
Sae bricht an' sae bonny they lay on the glen;
O the wannerin' Luggie, that wimplet sae clear,
Thro' hazle, an' hawthorn, an' rose-busket breer.
An' the notes o' the mavis an' blackbird wad ring,
An' the gowdspink an' lintie fu' sweetly wad sing
In the green braes o' Kirkwud; sic a walth o' wild flouris,
I never saw onie sic bird-haunted bouris.
But it's 'sixty years since,' the aul' gentles are gane,
An' o' the wild laddies few left to mak' mane.
Twa dochters, gude sain them, are yet to the fore,
But bonny Drumpeller they've left evermore.
Noo, neebors, ance mair, wi' my stick i' my haun,
I'll tak' to the road-to the northward I'm gaun,
For that was the airt I best liket to gang,
Ere the cares o' this wearifu' warl' grew thrang.
Oot-ower the auld brig, up to sweet Simmerlee,
Sweet, said ye?-hech, whaur?-for nae sweetness I see;
Big lums spewin' reek an' red lowe on the air,
Steam snorin', an' squeelin', an' whiles muckle mair?
Explodin', an' smashin', an' crashin', an' then
The wailin' o' women an' groanin' o' men,
A' scowther't, an' mangle't, sae painfu' to see-
The sweetness is gane, noo it's black Simmerlee.
It was sweet Simmerlee in the days o' langsyne,
Whan through the wa' trees the white biggin' wad shine,
An' its weel-tentit yardie was pleasant to see,
An' its bonny green hedges an' gowany lea.
I min' weel the time when a bonny young brlde,
Cam' to sweet Simmerlee mony years there to bide,
An' a flock o' fair bairnies grew up roun' her there:
The dearest was gallant young Donald, the heir.
O! wha wad hae thocht sic a fate wad betide
Young Donald, wha perish't that nicht on the Clyde,
Whan the knell o' the Comet rang far ower the wave,
An' she sank like a stane-there was nocht that could save!
There was greetin' an' sabbin' in sweet Simmerlee,
An' the dule an' the sorrow war waesome to see,
For Donald he was the a'e son o' his mither,
An' his titties lang mourn't the fate o' their brither.
Noo I'll dauner awa' up by Carlincraft Burn,
An' roun' by auld Hornock I'll tak' a bit turn,
Sae lown an' sae lanely that wee cosie neuk,
To think what they've made o't I canna weel bruck.
The auld warl' dwallin' had a muckle clay brace,
An' a lum whaur the stars glintit doun i' yer face
As ye sat by the fire; to the blue licht abune
Ye micht glower through the reek at the bonny hairst mune.
There was Carlincraft Jock an' his queer tittie Meg,
Wha caret'na the warl' nor its fashions a feg,
Jock's hoose had nae door but a stane prappit broad,
Roun' whilk wad come snokin' slee Lowrie the tod.
Noo the bodies are gane, an' their dwallin's awa,
An' the place whaur they stood I scarce ken noo ava,
For there's roarin' o' steam, an' there's reengin' o' wheels,
Men workin', an' sweatin', an' swearin' like deils.
An' the flame-tappit furnaces staun' in a raw,
A' bleezin', an' blawin', an' smeekin awa,
Their eerie licht brichtenin' the laigh hingin' cluds,
Gleamin' far ower the loch an' the mirk lanely wuds.
Noo, mark ye, the ashes, the dross, an' the slag,
Wad ye think it was they put the win' i' the bag
O' the big millionaires, that 'mang danners and cinners,
The Co. should ha'e gather't sic millions o' shiners?
Yet sic is the case, an' lang may they bruck
The gear they ha'e won, they've had mair than gude luck,
They've gi'en kirks, they've gi'en schules, an' gude pay to their men,
May Gude gi'e them gumption their wages to spen'.
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