Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Highland Cattle in the field behind our house


Last month I came across a book which had belonged to my mother. Published in 1899 by an Edinburgh firm, “Leah - A Tale of Ancient Palestine illustrative of the story of Naaman the Syrian” was written by Mrs A.S. Orr.

This is the opening paragraph -

“The short twilight of Eastern climes drew nigh, as Leah, the only child of Micaiah and Esther of Shechem, repaired to a spot sacred in her eyes and dear to her heart - her mother’s grave. It was now two years since Esther had been gathered to her fathers, in a tomb hollowed out in a great rock near her husband’s dwelling. To a seat near the sealed tomb, Leah loved to carry her lute and sing sacred songs.“

The above gives a rough idea of what the book is like. Now, for what age group would it be suitable?

Well, inside there’s the dedication - “To Pearl Hardie from Sunday School teacher Jane Barclay, December 1900.” But later that month my mother HAD HER 4TH BIRTHDAY.

Just another indication of how times have changed!


“Tam O’Shanter and the Witches” by John Faed 1819-1902

This painting illustrates the scene in Robert Burns’s poem, when Tam, more than a little bit inebriated, stops to watch a wild party going on at Kirk-Alloway.

“Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillon brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys and reels
Put life and metal in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat Auld Nick in shape o’ beast;
A towsie tyke, black, grim and large,
To gie them music was his charge;
He screwed the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl.”

Burns goes on to describe some of the horrors that Tam saw - open coffins containing corpses, on the table the skeleton of a murderer, a thief recently cut down from the gibbet, knives stained with blood, and of course a host of witches and devils dancing furiously.

Among them was “ae winsome wench” who took Tam’s fancy. He loved her wild dancing and, without thinking, he shouted out “Weel done, Cutty-sark!”

At once the dancers stopped,rushed out and chased after Tam. He was on his horse Maggie and rode off as fast as possible. The gang were about to catch up with him, but “A running stream they dare na cross”. Tam escaped over the bridge but the horse -
“left behind her ain gray tail;
The carline caught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.”

The poem ends with -

“Now, wha this tale o’ truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother’s son, take heed;
Whene’er to drink you are inclined,
Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,
Think, ye may buy the joys owre dear -
Remember Tam O’Shanter’s mare.”

You can read the whole poem at the Alexandria Burns Club website where they also give an English translation.

This a a photograph of the Auld Kirk probably taken around 1880. The building was already in ruins when the Burns family lived in the area, but the churchyard was still being used for burials, and the poet’s father is buried there..


A Scottish song now, but not one by Burns. The words of The Skye Boat Song were written by Sir Harold Boulton (1859-1935) and set to the melody of a traditional Gaelic rowing song.

The singer here is Barbara Dickson, and the words are shown below.

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.

Speed, bonnie boat, etc.

Many's the lad fought on that day,
Well the Claymore could wield,
When the night came, silently lay
Dead on Culloden's field.

Speed, bonnie boat, etc.


This week at JOHN’S QUIET CORNER the subject is Nature

This week at HAIKU HOMESTEAD - “Caterpillars and Butterflies” plus the 5-7-5 rule - Yes or No?


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