This story by James L. Black of 35 Concrete Buildings, Penicuik, netted a prize of one guinea by winning ‘The People’s Journal’ local story competition.
“Man, Andrew, you that’s been born and brocht up here aboot, can ye gie me the richt meaning o’ the saying ‘As braw as Lord Tam’s wife?’”
“Ay, brawly that, she wis a great lady, heiress o’ hundreds and thousands, and guidness kens what a’ besides. My faither wis at Howgate Schule wi’ Lord Tam, and mony a time I’ve heard the auld folk tell the story.”
“But whaur did she come frae, and whaur did she get the siller?”
“Hooly, hooly, Jamie, ca’ cannie and I’ll gie ye the haill shots o’t.” Andrew then told the story as follows:—
Ye maun understand Lord Tam’s faither farmed Wast Haugh ower in the muirs there. The place is doon noo, but ye can see some o’ the ruins and the auld hedge that grew roond the steadin’, but the land is divided. Some gangs with Kingside Edge Farm and some to Fa’ Hills; but in Lord Tam’s time they keepit a fell guid stock o’ beast and a pair o’ horse.
Weel, Eppie Paton, Lord Tam’s mither, ye ken, wis as grippie a woman as ye wid hae met wi’ in a day’s journey, slaving and toiling frae morning tae night, keeping puir auld Rob and the callant working three men’s work onywey. And even in the haytime and harvest time when the diel’s buckie o’ a crater wid hae breeked her coats and wrocht wi’ the scythe or forked and bund [?] till she wis hardly able to gang aff the field.
And what wis a’ this for, think ye, but to mak’ their muckle sumph o’ a son a gentleman. “Tam,” for he wisnae ca’ed “Lord” at this time, wis kept at the schule till he was man muckle, and then sent into the toon to be a clerk. Hech, howie, afore the twelve months were oot he wis hame tae Wast Haugh again. Effie said his health couldnae staund the confinement; but a’body kent Tam wis hame because Tam wis nae use awa’ frae hame. And dae ye think he wis noo putten atween the stilts o’ a ploo and gaured work for his brose? Na, na; my fine gentleman walked aboot as croose as ye like wi’ his braw toon’s claes, and Effie and Rob worked harder than ever.
But noo I’m gaun to tell ye aboot Lord Tam’s wife. He wisnae lang hame frae Edinburgh when Eppie turned no weel, and Rob had to hire a servant; but deil a ane wid bide ower a week or sae—they couldnae stand Eppie’s tongue. Hooever, at the back end o’ hairst Rob managed to engage a lassie wha had been working at Auchindenny Mill, and for a while things got on better. Nelly Baxter they ca’ed the cummer; and my certy she wis a game yin—never tired, but aye workin’ and workin’, till even Eppie wis in love wi’ her and took the lassie into her confidence, telling her a’ the grand things she was gaun to dae for Tam, and hoo rich he wid be, and hoo clever he wis, and it wis Tam this, and Tam that. Weel, Nelly sune saw hoo the land lay, and got into the crack o’ the whip, and began to sing Tam’s praises as loud as Eppie hersel’. Continue reading “‘Lord Tam’s Wife: A Penicuik Story’ by James L. Black (18 July, 1891)”