‘Scottish “Characters.” 2. “Gingerbread Robbie.”’ (8 December, 1888)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century. Here the focus is on a character from Kircaldy.

It has been remarked that in most towns and villages some one is known as the local “character.” The lang town of Kirkcaldy, in ye kingdom o’ Fife, in this respect is no exception. Within the last half-century it has known several Scottish celebrities in humble life, famous for their wit, humour, or other idiosyncrasies. From this number we select one, who was well known throughout the length and breadth of the land. Wherever the was a market, or fair, from John o’ Groats to Maidenkirk, there was he present, the leading personage to attract crowds of old and young, male and female. His nickname was “Gingerbread Robbie.” The incidents about to be recorded are real, and were seen and heard by the writer at the market or fair held in the Linktown of Kirkcaldy a few years ago. In this town the fair is held twice a year, on the third Friday of April and on the third Friday of October.

“Gingerbread Robbie” was a confectioner. He travelled about from fair to fair, and had a way all his own of disposing of his wares. He did not stand at a stall, like his brothers in trade, and supply customers who might patronise him with their custom. No. This slow process did not suit his lively, pushing temperament. He erected a sort of platform with his boxes and sold off his eatables in the auctioneering style. See Robbie, then, a stout-built, broad-chested, short-necked, smiling-faced little man, about five feet in height, standing on the top of his boxes, about to proceed to business. He takes up a large cake, and says—“Now, ye young lads and lassies, here’s something for you. This is a splendidly got up volume of Chambers’s Information for the People. Just look at it. It is beautifully bound, not in calf oh, no, but in bullock’s, blood and sawdust.” (Great roars of laughter from the vast crowd around him.) “Who says a shilling for’t? Nobody bids a shillin’! Then who says sixpence for’t, and that till’t?” (taking up a small cake of gingerbread and putting it on the top of the other.)

A young man from the country calls out, “Here, Robbie,” “I kent that lassie beside ye,” says Robbie, “would get to invest a sixpence on this concern. See how she’s laughin’. Now, gie her the whole o’t, mind that, and be sweet till her as ye gang hame the nicht, and ye’ll ne’er regret it. Gie her a bit smourik now an’ then, an’ ye an’ her will be as happy as twa doos in a dookit.” (Immense shouts of laughter from the vast multitude.)

Robbie takes up a package of sweets, and thus addresses the onlookers—“Now, friends, here’s a lairge bit o’ real loadstone. It’s attractive pooer is juist marvellous. It’s a fack. Just try it. If any young man just touches a bonnie lassie on the shouther wi’t she’s catch’d [illegible] shure’s a herrin’. Now, wha among ye a’ s[illegible] -een pence or a shillin’ for’t? I’m shure [illegible] -ear. Do ye think sae? Weel say n[illegible] a sixpence for’t, an’ a’ that tae[illegible] -n,” placin’ three or four cakes o’ [illegible] along side o’t. “Here,” cries a dandy-lookin’ chield, “here’s a saxpence, Robbie,” “Hae ye a bit lassie nae?” says Robbie. “Ay, hae I,” replies the youth, lauchin’. “I thocht that,” adds Robbie. “Then gie her that frae me,” handing him a nice piece of orange-peel cake. “Tell her that’s frae her auld sweetheart. Mind ye, she’s fond o’ the lads, so keep a sharp e’e on her. I’ve tell’t ye; for ‘deed I like her mysel’, she’s baith bonnie an’ guid.” Continue reading “‘Scottish “Characters.” 2. “Gingerbread Robbie.”’ (8 December, 1888)”

‘Scottish “Characters.” 1. Johnnie A’thing.’ (1 December, 1888)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century. Here the focus is on ‘Johnnie A’thing’, grocer of Perthshire.

In a combative little village something less than a day’s march from the Fair City there lived a few years ago a well-known worthy locally known as Johnnie A’thing; and by that name we will know him here. He was of an eccentric disposition, and had as much wit and humour at his disposal as kept the village in good humour from week’s end to week’s end, and many of his sayings and practical jokes have become public property.

John A’thing was a grocer and spirit-dealer, and his shop was one of the most remarkable medleys that was ever dignified by the name of grocery. He was wont to say himself that he “sell’t everything frae a needle to an anchor, an’ bocht onything frae laddie’s bools to cannon-balls.” Cheese, butter, ham and eggs, bottles of beer and sides of bacon, pots and pans, pencils, pens and pen-knives, girdles and gridirons, walking sticks and watches, fish and fishing rods, augers and axes, spades and shovels, and numerous other articles of the most incongruous description were piled up side by side in a confusion that seemed confounded to the untutored eye; but Johnnie himself knew what was what and what was where well enough to suit the purposes of his trade. His customers were always readily supplied with whatever they called for, unless when he couldna be fashed, which happened at times, and then he did not hesitate to bid the astonished would-be buyer to “gang yont the street a bittie, yont the street, yont the street; there’s naething worth o’ buyin’ here. Gae East the wey, East the wey; they maun keep a’thing guid whaur the wise men cam’ frae.”

But in spite o’ this at times unbusiness-like peculiarity of his, and mayhap because of it, he did a roaring trade for many a long year, and especially when the railway was making between Perth and Aberdeen, as the navvies came to him in scores to have a crack, a laugh, a snuff, and a dram over their purchases. His shop window, like the shop itself, was worth going miles to see, as the articles placed there for show were piled up a couple of feet deep, and could be counted by the thousand, pocket knives being predominant; and the boys of the village were never tired of pressing their little noses against the panes to feast their eyes upon the unattainable treasures, and discuss the relative merits of the different knives. But “everything comes to those who know how to wait,” saith the old saw, and this truth was exemplified one-never-to-be-forgotten day, to the satisfaction of all the boys around, by the window, over-burdened with its riches, falling into the street. In the twinkling of an eye, as if a telegraph message had gone round the village, all its rising generation were gathered around the spoil like wasps around a honeycomb. John took things coolly, and stood at the door tapping his snuff-box, looking upon the scene as if it were an every day occurrence. But his better-half being less of a philosopher than her lord and master was at once in the middle of the melee making her tongue and hands ring about the ears of the little wretches with Amazonian vigour. Continue reading “‘Scottish “Characters.” 1. Johnnie A’thing.’ (1 December, 1888)”

‘Bodkin Draws His “Huggar”’ (28 December, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of 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,—My prophecy has come true, nor did I need to wait lang for the fulfilment thereof. Tibbie has unbosomed a’ her griefs anent Mrs Davidson’s new apparel; an’, what is mair an’ waur, Tibbie’s pawkie tongue has gotten her the victory! Noo she is as happy as the nicht is lang, for she is upsides wi’ Mrs Davidson; yea, she is actually a gude wheen shillin’s superior to that individual, muckle as she did think o’ her bannet that cost three-an’-thirty “bob.” As sure as ought, after hearin’ a’ Tibbie’s wechty ratiocination, an’ balancin’ the yeas an’ the nays forgainst ane anither, I was driven to the inevitable conclusion that her will behooved to be law, an’ that I micht juist as weel haud my tongue as speak, unless I agreed to let it wag in unison wi’ her’s. Hoo she managed to convince me that she was “half-nakit,” an’ stood greatly in need o’ a backburthen o’ silk mercery an’ haberdashery goods, will be fully, truly, an’ particularly set forth in the sequel o’ my discoorse.

Weel, ye see, for twa or three days after Mrs Davidson’s visit, unco few words passed between Tibie an’ me on ony subject, an’ absolutely nane ava anent the contents o’ that worthy lady’s bandbox an’ broon paper parcels. I foresaw what was maskin’ up, an’ the prospect was onything but pleasant to behold. Weel kenned I that a sacrifice o’ sax or aucht pounds sterlin’ wad be necessary in order to restore Tibbie to her wonted serenity o’ soul an’ smoothness o’ temper; aboot that I had nae doots whatsomever. The contemplation o’ that disagreeable contingency, I ha’e as little doot, not only subtracted frae the habitual radiancy o’ my coontenance, but addit nae that little acerbity to the usual equanimity o’ my temper. It is sometimes necessary, in the way o’ business, to put on a face scarcely consistent wi’ the condition o’ the internal machinery o’ the body, but at ane’s ain fireside, if onywhere, it is surely quite allooable to let the physog shadow forth the feelins o’ the heart. Consequently, when I am angry either wi’ Tibbie or wi’ Willie Clippins, I tak’ gude care to adverteese them o’ the circumstance, by makin’ my physiognomy, as well as my haill walk an’ conversation, serve as the ootward tokens an’ visibilities thereof. There is nae use for a man toilin’ hard to keep a hoose aboon his head, if he is to be sae little the maister thereof as to be under the necessity o’ playin’ the hypocrite at his ain fireside, an’ deceivin’ even the very wife o’ his bosom.

Tibbie is auld-farrand eneugh at discernin’ the signs o’ the times to ken when to speak, an’ when to haud her tongue. T is the sign o’ a gude general to be able to see an’ to seize upon the precise moment when the enemy is in a swither whether to fecht or flee, an’ by leadin’ up his reserves in the nick o’ time, to mak’ a bauld stroke for victory. This faculty my Tibbie possesses to an ooncommon degree. She begins by cajolin’ me wi’ her saft blandishments against whilk my sternest resolutions are no proof o’ shot, an’ ends by leadin’ me captive, like a fule to the correction o’ stocks. In this I canna claim ony singularity for mysel’, for it has been the way o’ the warld ever sn’ t was a warld, an’ will likely remain sae as lang as men an’ women are drawn thegither by the silken cords o’ love, an’ that’ll be, accordin’ to my interpretation o’ the language o’ prophecy, till the crack o’ doom.

Tibbie’s first move towards oilin’ my temper pin was to throw on her bannet ae nicht an’ gang her wa’s doon i’ the gloamin’ to the Fish Market an’ fetch up a skate, as a peace-offerin’. So when she returned, she cries me to the kitchen. “Tammas,” quoth she, “wad ye hae time to look ben for a wee?”

Ben I goes, an’ there in a bucket lies the skate—an object that awakened in my stammack most pleasin’ visions o’ a feast o’ fat things. I’ve haen a lithe side to skate ever sin’ I could discern between my richt hand an’ my left, an’ its a feelin’ that will abide wi’ me as lang as I can tell what is gude for me, an’ after that, I’m thinking, I winna be worth muckle, either to Tibbie or to the warld at lairge. I stood an’ beheld it for a few seconds, then I seized it by the tail, an’ held it up atween me an’ the licht to see if it was a thorny-black, an’ lastly, I restored it to the bucket, but meanwhile I said naething, though I dinna doot my face gave unmistakable tokens o’ the inward satisfaction that I really felt an’ cherished. Tibbie watched the tide in her affairs, took it at the flood, an’ found that it led her on to fortune.

“What think ye o’ my purchase, Tammas?” quoth she, wi’ ane o’ her most winning smiles stealin’ ower her pawkie face; “Isna that a worthy beast! Hoo the fishwives were jokin’ me aboot it, Tammas! but fegs I gied them in their cheenge, an’ never mindit what they said. I think ye’ll get petawtis an’ skate to yer dinner the morn, Tammas.”

Tibbie said a great deal mair to the same purpose, an’ of coorse I gied my assent to the feck o’ her discoorse, for she taen care to mak’ it, even to the most minute particular, an echo o’ my weel-known sentiments on that subject. So, after discussin’ the merits o’ her purchase to oor hearts’ content, I gaed my wa’s ben to the needle, an’ Tibbie she kiltit her sleeves to her shoother heads, an’, knife in hand, set to wark to embowel the skate—an operation at which, n my humble opinion, she hasna her marrow amang a’ the women o’ my acquaintance. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Draws His “Huggar”’ (28 December, 1861)”

‘Bodkin’s Goose Falls into a Serious Transgression’ (21 December, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of 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,—Havin’ finished the waddin’ suit I spoke aboot last week, I’m noo at leisure to tell ye the result o’ my interview wi’ Tibbie an’ Mrs Davidson.

Weel ye see, as I was sayin’, when I gaed but to the kitchen at Tibbie’s command, I found her standin’ afore the lookin’ glass arrayed in Mrs Davidson’s new regimentals, an’ presentin’, I maun say, to my e’e at least, a very comely sicht. First an’ foremost, an’ to begin wi’ her upper story, there was a most lovely, an’, accordin’ to Mrs Davidson, a very costly bannet on the head o’ her, wi’ some queer fleegaries stuch atween the snoot an’ her forehead, that bore a strikin’ resemblance to a wren’s nest; but as this is no the season o’ nidification amang the feathered sangsters o’ the grove, a bird’s nest it couldna weel hae been, though what it really was clean surpasses my vocabulary to name. Most fearfully an’ wonderfully was that precious head-piece bedeckt wi’ ribands o’ a’ the hues o’ the rainbow. Tibbie remindit me o’ a ship buskit up in flamin’-coloured clouts, and juist ready to tak’ the grand plunge into her “future element.” A shawl, that I sanna attempt to describe, enveloped her person frae neck to heel, an’ aroond her neck there was twined an article that Mrs Davidson ca’d a sable boa, but that seemed to my inexperienced e’e to have been fashioned on the model o’ a hairy-worm. Add to a’ thae variorums, a muff o’ the same colour an’ quality as the boa, an’ ye’ll behold my Tibbie. I cuist my e’e ower her haill corporation frae head to fit, an’ quoth she, “Tammas, what d’ye think o’ yer gudewife the nicht?” Of coorse I wasna gaen to say afore Mrs Davidson a’ that I thocht, an’ a’ that I wad hae said, an’ a’ that I did say, ahint her back; but weel I wat, I thocht nae that little in my ain mind, an’ no the least distressin’ reflection was this, that I was in for a suit o’ the like raiment for Tibbie, as sure as I was a livin’ man an’ a dutiful husband.

“Think o’ ye, Tibbie?” quoth I. “Ou ye’re weel eneuch,” quoth I.

“Weel eneuch?” quoth Tibbie. “Is that a’ your skill, Tammas? D’ye no think Mrs Davidson’s bravity becomes me richt weel, Tammas?”

“Ou aye, I suppose they do,” quoth I, drily, an’ at the same time spittin’ on the guse to see if she was ready for liftin’.

“But that’s no what I meant, Tammas,” quoth Tibbie. “Ha’e ye naething to say aboot this lovely bannet, for instance, but juist ‘weel eneuch,’ an ‘on aye?’ D’ye no think it gars me look a dizzen o’ years younger like, Tammas?”

“Maybe it does, Tibbie,” quoth I, “but likes an ill mark, my woman; an’, besides, ye canna deceive me as to yer age noo, TIbbie, after I had the fillin’ up o’ the census paperie. D’ye mind hoo auld I set ye doon therein, Tibbie? If it werna for Mrs Davidson there I wad tell ye.”

“Hoots, toots, Tammas, min,” quoth she, “ye’re awa’ frae the subject noo a’thegither, but tel me what ye think o’ this muff, Tammas; would’nt it fit me to a very shavin’?”

“Ou aye, Tibbie,” quoth I, “an’ if I can lay me hands on a dead cat ony way, ye’se get a muff, Tibbie.”

“What d’ye think was the price o’ that bannet?” enquired Mrs Davidson.

“Canna say, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I. “Bannets are no exactly in my line o’ business, an I dinna like to venture a guess on the subject, for I’m far frae bein’ a witch at guessin’.”

“Weel, what will ye gi’e me if I tell ye?” quoth Mrs Davidson.

“My thirst for knowledge o’ that kind is no sae very intense as to induce me to pay a high fee for it,” quoth I.

“Juist three-an’-therty shillings, Mr Bodkin,” quoth she, “an’ no ae farthin’ less. It’s a real bargain, ye see, for the man said it was ‘very chaste,’ an’ newly arrived frae Parish.”

“Ye remind me o’ the auld proverb, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I.

“Yea, Mr Bodkin, an’ what proverb is that?”

“That a fule an’ his siller are sure partit,” quoth I.

“Aha! Mr Bodkin,” quoth she; “ye may say what ye like, but I’ve saved twa an’ saxpence on that bannet, for the man wad hae haen five-an’-therty an’ saxpence for’t, but I wadna agree to his terms. So ye see I’ve saved half a day’s wage to John Davidson by that stroke o’ business.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin’s Goose Falls into a Serious Transgression’ (21 December, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Very Nearly Angry’ (14 December, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of 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,—On Wednesday afternoon Tibbie had a visit frae Mrs Davidson. Naething wrang in that; folk maun be freendly wi’ ane anither, if they dinna mean to live like a wheen cannibals withoot natural affection, an’ never passin’ a thocht aboot their neebors, except it be to contrive hoo to mak’ a meal o’ them. I like to be social mysel’, an’ I like to see everybody aroond me the same; but, losh, there’s a limit to everything under the sun, save an’ except to the click-clack o’ a woman’s tongue, especially when egged on by the click-clack o’ anither tongue o’ the same gender. The faster a body rins, the sooner he gets to the end o’ his journey—a rule that doesna haud gude wi’ speakin’, hooever—at least it doesna haud gude wi’ my Tibbie’s speakin’, for the faster her tongue wags, the langer lasts the motion thereof. It’s aye the mair haste the less speed wi’ Tibbie. Juist gi’e her a congenial subject, an’ get her fairly started wi’t, an’ ye may consider yersel’ fortunate if ye hear the end o’t within the limits o’ twa oors at the very least. Indeed, my Tibbie’s tongue comes aboot as near the perpetual motion as may be; an’ if they wad only agree to let me ha’e the reward offered for the discovery o’ that lang sought-for piece o’ mechanism, I wad thole its dinsome clatter wi’ a greater degree o’ patience an’ resignation than I can at times command.

Weel ye see Mrs Davidson made her appearance juist at the precise nick o’ time when Tibbie was to begin washin’ up her dinner dishes. I had newly finished my after-dinner pipe, and had barely mountit the board, when the ruddie comes to the door. I aye like to be civil wi’ everybody, and though Mrs Davidson acted a rather twa-faced pairt in the matter o’ the Municipal Elections an’ the Provostship, yet I made nae difference till her on that account, for if folk conduct themselves like gude Christians a’ the rest o’ their lives, we canna help though they sid resort to cheatin’, and leein’, an’ evil-speakin’, at an election time. That’s an every-day occurrence, ay, even among folk wi’ greater pretensions to honour and sanetity than Mrs Davidson ever had, an’ if we were to fling awa oor private freendships for ilka little thing in them that displeases us, we wad very soon find oorsels without a freend in the wide wide warld. Na, na, we mauna aye cast awa the cog when the coo flings. For that reason I abstained frae ony demonstration o’ ill-feelin’ towards Mrs Davidson, an’ so when I observed the snoot o’ her bannet peepin’ in atween the door cheeks, or rather the neb o’ her nose, for ladies bannets noo-a-days hae nae snoots worth speakin’ o’—I sprang doon frae the board an’ taen three staps to the stair-head for the purpose o’ shakin’ hauds wi’ her, an’ showin’ her ony ither points o’ gude breedin that micht peradventure be necessary under the circumstances.

I observed in the twinklin’ o’ an e’e that Mrs Davidson had been patronisin’ the haberdashery line o’ business, for she had a big broon paper parcel in ilka oxter, forbye a bandbox that she carried in her hand, the contents whereof, judgin’ frae the care wherewith the boxie was piloted past a’ the angularities in my lobby, seemed to be the objects o’ her especial affection and veneration. Seem’ that she was rather over-encumbered wi’ her properties, I caught hauds o’ the band-box wi’ the view o’ renderin’ ony little assistance I could gi’e, but got unco sma’ thanks for my pains. “Eh! Mr Bodkin! Mr Bodkin!” quoth she, “haud aff yer haunds,” quoth she, “or ye’ll mischieve a’ my new bannet,” quoth she, “an’ I wadna for the best thirty shillings my gudeman ever wrocht for that onything sid come ower that bannet.”

Sorra tak’ you an’ yer bannat baith, thinks I to mysel’, for ye’ll be showin’ aff a’ yer puchases to my Tibbie, an’ if I dinna hear word aboot them i’ the deafest side o’ my head afore mony oors are at an end, it will be something oot o’ the common ordinar’. So thocht I laigh in to mysel’, but here’s what I said heigh oot to Mrs Davidson, “Sorry wad I be to hurt a hair o’ yer head, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I, “let abee spoilin’ yer new bannet in ony shape or degree whatsomever, Mrs Davidson, but if ye winna let me touch yer boxie, ye surely winna object to let me relieve ye o’ yer broon paper parcels.” So the business was compromised by Tibbie takin’ ane o’ the bundles into custody, while I was entrusted wi’ the ither, an’ that’s hoo we got Mrs Davidson introduced to my kitchen. Dog on it; afore twa oors were at an end my sentiments regardn’ Mrs Davidson, her new bannet, an’ her broon paper parcels, had undergane a great an’ radicle cheenge, an’, in fact, to speak plainly, an’ withoot wishin’ ony ill to befa’ her, I could hae seen her dive head foremost doon the stair, an’ a’ her haberdashery, hair-skins, an’ rabbit-skins, an’ bandboxes at her heels. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Very Nearly Angry’ (14 December, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Draws Tibbie’s Tooth’ (7 December, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of 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,—A’ last week Tibbie gaed aboot an’ gloomed even on. Though I employed a’ my airts an’ blandishments wi’ her, though I gaed to the well, an’ brocht up the coals, tane oot the ase, an’ washed up the dinner dishes, lai on the fire i’ the mornin’, an’ made her cuppie o’ tea till her afore she rose, an’ her bed after, yet a’ wadna do—naething wad mollify if it got ae kick in the coorse o’ the four-and-twenty oors, it got a score o’ them, an’ the very tortoise couldna lift a fit to please her. For me, I couldna sup my kail to her satisfaction, an’, as for Willie Clippins, he gied great offence by his manner o’ scoorin’ the guse—he made ower muckle noise, she said, for ae thing, an’ he bleckt a’ the floor wi’t for anither; an’ so, atween Willie an’ me ben the hoose, an’ the creepie an’ the tortoise i’ the kitchen, Tibbie’s life was rendered quite miserable. Truly, she was a woman o’ a sorrowfu’ spirit.

Bein’ certain that neither Willie nor mysel’, nor the creepie, nor the tortoise, had been guilty o’ any greater misdemeanours than ordinary, I began to jealouse that something was wrang wi’ Tibbie hersel’. I was confirmed in this opinion by seein’ her takin’ a couple o’ Colosynth’s pills ae nicht to her supper, an’ my belief was still farther strengthened when, next mornin’, I observed the auld black teapat sotterin’ at the cheek o’ the fire, wherefrom there cam’ a strong ill-favoured combination o’ stinks that I was morally certain proceedit frae a decoction o’ salts an’ senna an’ horehund, an’ sic like graith. I made sundry kind inquiries as to the state o’ her health, but she wasna disposed to be communicative, an’ so I didna press my questions. By-an’-bye, hooever, i observed that her chouks began to swall oot to abnormal proportions, an’so I cam’ to the conclusion that Tibbie was labourin’ oonder that “hell o’ a diseases”—toothache. That quite explained to me the twist in Tibbie’s temperpin, for, o’ a’ the deseases Tibbie has ever been afflicket wi’ since she cam’ oonder my jurisdiction, toothache is the only ane that she could never thole wi’ ony degree o’ patience.

But the reason why she made nae remarks aboot her complaint was this:—Aboot a twalmonth syne I happened to hae a pretty dour attack o’ the same complaint, when, of coorse, I made an unco ootery, as it wad behoove ony mortal man to do oonder the circumstances, an’ Tibbie she wad hae a mustard-poultice applied to the braid-side o’ my head. This was a’ very weel, an’ I agreed to try the efficacy thereof; but ye’ll no hinder Tibbie to clap the mustard on my bare cheek, whereupon it a’ got claggit aboot the roots o’ my whiskers, an’ awa’ it wadna come. Aweel, in the coorse o’ natur’ it burned, an’ it burned, an’ it burned, oontil I was like to gang oot o’ my judgment wi’ the pain thereof; an’ the lang an’ the short o’t was that the skin cam’ harlin’ aff my cheek in blypes, leavin’ the hair standin’ in a wilderness o’ prood flesh. Dog on it! I was nae that weel pleased aboot it, an’ was plain eneuch to say sae; but Tibbie got up in an unco tirrivee, an’ quoth she, “Hech, I ‘sure ye, when ony little thing is the matter wi’ you, Tammas, ye sune let a’ the hoose hear o’t—makin’ sic a sang aboot a mere flech-bite, min. I wonder ye dinna think back burnin’ shame o’ yersel’! I’m sure I’ve had the toothache a thoosan’ times ower, an’ a thoosan’ times waur than you, Tammas, an’ did ye ever hear me grainin’ an’ makin’ a hullieballoo at that rate? But it’s aye the way wi’ you men folk—ye canna thole a stoond i’ the nail o’ yer muckle tae, but ye maun be cryin’ oot murder, an’ thrawin’ yer chafts as if ye had swallowed a hedge-hog, or a wasp’s bink wi’ a’ its inhabitants.” An’ so on she gaed, blawin’ her ain horn, an’ garrin’ me look unco sma’ indeed. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Draws Tibbie’s Tooth’ (7 December, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of 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,—It’s wi’ nae sma’ amoont o’ trepidashun an’ wi’ great fear and tremblin’ that I venture to ask you the favour o’ insertin’ this letter; but I think it’s only fair that baith sides sid be heard, an’ yer Journal weekly testifies that ye’re o’ the same opeenion.

Alloo me, then, to tell ye, Sir, that I didna juist exackly like to cheek up tae the maister i’ the coorse o’ his learned prelection on matrimony last week, of whilk I was the oonfortunate victim; but believe me, though I said naething, I thocht plenty. Wi’ a’ due deference to the maister’s sooperior pooers o’ judgment, experience, an’ ability—no only in cuttin’ oot in the first style o’ fashion a pair o’ peg-top slacks, but also in bein’ the author o’ sae muckle leeterary maiter—I maun say that I think he juist took raither muckle on him when, withoot ony warnicement, as he ca’s it, he gae me sic a discoorse on matrimony. It took my breath clean awa’, an’ I didna get ae wink o’ sleep a’ nicht thinkin’ on’t. It wad hae been a’ very guid if he had been addressin’ a bridegroom, but the idea o’ me marryin’ is something that I canna for the life o’ me get ower—marryin’, an’ my time no oot—marryin’, an’ me hisna aboon—but I sanna say hoo muckle, or raither hoo little i’ the Savin’s Bank, for fear yer readers wid lauch at’s—marryin’, an’ my—my—my—whisker hardly begun to sprout again aifter its Hallowe’en untimely end—marryin’, an’, most important consideration o’ a’, only the words “Thomas Bodkin” on the sign-brod. Na, na. Ye mauna tell the maister, Mr Editor, when I lat ye into the secret that sin he cam’ sae muckle into notice, I’ve ha’en an e’e on the sign bein’ altered some day—tho’ it’ll maybe be a lang time yet—but wadna it soond fine. “Bodkin & Clippins, Tailors and Clothiers?”—far better than “Bobbins, Bodkin, & Co.,” so wisely rejected by “Tammas” (I houp he’ll excuse this fameeliarity). An’ here lat me say I dinna like thae Co.’s ava—they’re awfu’ oonstable like, an’ onything can be dune oonder that ugly wird at the end o’ some firms—“Co.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 1861)”