The following letter is part of a long series by Tammas Bodkin, the character used by editor William D. Latto to speak frankly (and amusingly) on current affairs. Latto became editor of the ‘People’s Journal’ in December 1860 and used the platform to launch Tammas, bringing himself a fair amount of fame in Victorian Scotland.
Maister Editor,—I’ve nae love for railway tunnels; I ay like to travel aboon boord, an’ no within the bowels o’ the earth like a mowdiewart. Catch me venturin’ my carkitch aneth the yird but only when I canna help it! It’s maybe a prejudice o’ mine, but I doot it’s ane I’ll carry to my grave wi’ me. I like to hae the sun or the moon, or the starns at least, to keep watch an’ ward ower me; an’ afore I wad be a collier, to creep on hands an’ feet far ben into dark, dreepin’ cauverns, whaur the air smells o’ fire an’ brimstane, I wad as soon be “a kitten and cry mew,” like my freend the venturolocust.
An’ this reminds me that I’ve still some ill-faured revelations to mak’ anent the conduck o’ this worthy individooal. As I stated last week, we had nae trouble wi’ my gentleman a’ the gait atween Bridge of Allan an’ the Moncrieffe Tunnel, konsequently we had leisure to mak’ observations by the way. I let Tibbie see Shirramuir, whaur the battle was focht, a hunder an’ fifty years syne, atween the Duke o’ Argyle and the Earl o’ Mar, and edified her wi’ a quotation frae the sang that was written thereanent, wherein the dubious issue o’ the combat is described in the manner followin’:—
“There’s some say that they wan,
An’ some say that we wan,
An’ some say that nane wan at a’, man;
But o’ ae thing I’m sure, that at Shirramuir,
A battle there was, which I saw, man;
An’ we ran, an’ they ran,
An’ they ran, an’ we ran,
An’ we ran, an’ they ran awa’, man.”
I direekit her attention to Ardoch to the nor’ard o’ Greenloanin’ Station, whaur the ancient Romans had an immense camp, whereof “the very ruins are tremendous.” I mentioned that it was in the neeborhood o’ Ardoch, accordin’ to some historians, that the celebrated Heelanman named Galgacus focht a great battle wi’ the Romans, an’ was defeated, but Tibbie seemed naewise gratefu’ for the information, for a’ the encooragement I got was conveyed in the followin’ languidge, “Hoots, nonsense, Tammas, dinna deave a body aboot the Roman gawkies an’ what they did, when we’ve plenty o’ gawkies i’ the present day to crack aboot; but I wad cun ye mony thanks if ye could tell me hoo I’m to get hame to Dundee withoot a cup o’ warm tea, for I’m perfectly like to drap doon wi’ faintness, an’ I wonder hoo Mary Ann an’ the bits o’ twinnies, puir lammies, are comin’ on. I’m wae to think what a handfu’ she’ll hae, an’ them her first, too! This warld’s ill dividit, Tammas, for ye’ll see some folk that ye wad think had ower mony weans—although it would be cruel and sinfu’ in their pawrents to say, or even to think sae—an’ ithers again that hae nane ava. But we maun just tak’ what is sent, Tammas, an’ say naething; for we’ve nae richt to find faut wi’ the doin’ s o’ Providence.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin in the Bowels of the Earth’ (28 October, 1865)”