Author(s): James McGonigal
Copyright holder(s): James McGonigal
An that was ony day o the week, no oan a special day like the day -- a waddin day. Their bonnie dochter, Jennie, was getting merrit tae thon clock-mender, Wullie Jackeson. A gey smert move that on the pairt o oor Wulliam, for was he no getting juist the nicest-luikin lassie in the haill o Nithsdale, but cakes an ale for life forby? An whit cakes! An whitna ale! Roon the big table at the steadin, folk were aa takin their fill, pledgin the health an wealth o the young couple until --
Here, the jugs o beer were aa empty! But no tae worry, there was barrels mair in the cellar. Sae Duncan cried oot tae his dochter tae rin doon an draw oot mair jugs frae the farthest keg. An awa she ran, doon the stoorie cellar stairs wi her braw waddin dress trailin oot ahint her. Noo, ye micht think that this was a daft-like thing tae dae (an ye'd be richt) but I telt ye that Duncan wasnae that smert, nor his wife nor his lassie neither, for that maitter. But kinder-herted an mair willing neebours ye couldna want tae meet. Sae aff she rins tae draw mair beer for their drouthie freens.
But while she was doon there in the mirk o the cellar, waitin for the jug tae fill frae the spicket in the keg, an watchin the faem (white as maist o her waddin goon) swirl roon the jug like cloods through a simmer sky, Jennie got tae thinkin tae hersel: 'The day I got merrit. In nine months I'll likely hae a bairn, a wee laddie, an I'll ca him Jackie Jackeson. I'll put a wee white jaicket on him an wee white shoon for his feet, an syne he'll grow up intae a braw big laddie -- But, whit if my wee Jackie Jackeson dees? Oh, my puir wee son!' An at that, the saft-herted lassie brast oot greetin an weepin like naebody's business.
Naebody heard her, o coorse, for there was that much lauchter an foolerie roon the waddin table upstairs. The daft lassie roared an grat in the cellar, an took nae heed o the jug that was getting brim-fu o beer, an syne rinnin ower oan tae the cellar flair. Eftir a while, when she was still no back wi the beer, her faither said tae his wife: 'Gan awa an see if oor Jennie's no fa'en asleep doon there.' Sae the auld wifie ran doon the steps an fand her dochter greetin her een oot.
'Whitever's the maitter wi ye, lassie? Whit's haippened at aa?'
'Och Mammie, I wis thinkin that the day I got merrit, an I'm that happy.
An in another nine months or sae I'll hae a bonny wee son, an I'll ca him Jackie Jackeson -- but whit if Jackie Jackeson shuld dee, an him still wee?'
'Och, my wee grandson, my puir wee Jockie Jockeson dee?'
An the tae weemin stertit greetin thegither, wi their airms roon each ither's necks. The cellar meanwhile was floodin wi beer, but the pair o them was that fashed they never kent whit was their ain tears an whit was the beer.
Meanwhile auld Duncan Dungarroch was sittin a wee bit reid-faced that the beer had run oot at his dochter's waddin. Whan he could thole it nae mair, awa he went doon tae the cellar an fand the twa weemin there, howlin an jowlin in the dark.
'Whit's wrang wi ye, in heeven's name?'
'Och Faither, we were just thinkin that in nine month's time ye'll hae a wee laddie, Jackie Jackeson, tae grin at his grandpa -- but what if the bonnie bairnie dees!'
At thae words, the saft-herted auld geezer felt the salt tears tricklin doon his cheeks, an he put his airms roon his wife an dochter, cryin oot,
'Och my puir wee mannie, my ain wee Jackie Jacuzzi, whit sall we aa dae wi'oot ee? Wha'll keep us lauchin noo through the lang winter nichts? Wha'll help me brew the beer an shift the heavy kegs when I grow ower auld for it?'
A voice answerit him frae the cellar stairs: 'Weel, it'll no be me, that's for shair! I've never seen the like: a grown man an twa weemin guddlin roon there like three daft ducks in a river o beer. Whit kin o faimly hae I merrit intae? Ye're aa aff yir heids -- an I'm aff my merk! Ye'll no see me again unless I come across three eedjits dafter nor you.'
Wi thae hard words, Wullie Jackeson was awa doon the road afore onybody could prevent him, lee'in Jennie an the Dungarrochs wi somethin real tae worry aboot, an their guests wi somethin fruitier than the waddin cake tae chow on. An they did.
Meantime, the angry groom strode doon the road till he reached the bank o the Nith, an there he met a man wha was tryin tae load a wheen o pebbles intae a barra, wi a gairden fork. 'Guid day, young sir. I'm needin a load o chuckie stanes tae mak a gairden path, but it's a sair fecht tae fill this barra. Can ye gie me a haun?'
'Ye gowk!' replied Wullie. 'Can ye no see that maist o them stanes are ower wee tae catch in the tines o yer fork? Use a spade, man, an ye'll get the job done in five meenits!'
On he merched alang the river bank, shakin his heid that he had met yin person dafter than his in-laws, when he cam across a lassie wi twa Sheltie pownies. She had brocht them doon tae the river for a drink, an she was dippin a silver ladle intae the water an gien the pownies a ladle-fu, turn an turn aboot. 'Oh, sir,' she said. 'I've been staunin here hauf the mornin an my pownies are still that thirsty. Whit can I dae?'
'Ye daft gowk, juist shove their muzzles intae the water an they'll drink till they're fu!' An tae hissel he said, 'That's twae dafties.'
He hadna gan hauf a mile farther oan whan he met a wifie daunerin doon the road, haudin oot a pair o tweed troosers. 'Och, sir,' she said. 'Hae ye seen a baldie man gan aboot wi nae breeks? My husband has taen tae walkin in his sleep an a fortnicht past this Tuesday he wandered oot o the hoose at hauf past fower I the mornin an I've seen neither hide nor hair o him since. He'll be that shame-facit whan he waukens up, sae I hae brocht his troosers oot for him tae cam hame in.'
That's three fowk dafter than the Dungarrochs, thocht Wullie tae hissel. I micht as weel stay merrit, because the farther frae hame, the dafter they became. An sae he turned aroon, an walked back tae whit was left o his waddin. Aa the folk there were richt gled tae see him, an the day didnae end in tears but in dauncin an joy, as it had stertit oot.
Nine or mebbe ten months went by. Wullie mendit his watches an clocks (the business was buildin up), Jennie went atween her ain hoose an her mither's, helpin oot wi the brewin or bakin or whatever was on the go, an aabody was contentit. She was expeckin a bairn, an was ower busy noo for worryin her heid aboot what micht never haippen. An shair eneuch, their wee laddie was born an they ca'ed him Jackie Jackeson, a bonnie wee brute wi lungs that could gar the rafters rattle: but easy contentit wi a feed or a sang.
He didna dee, as his mither had feared on her waddin day. But she did, when the wee lad was aboot twa, frae 'complications' (the doctor said) wi a second bairn, a wee lassie this time, wha deed an aa. It's hard tae say hoo wee Jackie was affeckit by aa this, but he turned quiet as a moose eftirwards an didna speak until he was near eneuch fower year auld. His faither had begun tae think that the laddie was dumb. It's no that he was negleckit: Wullie had moved his watchmender's workshop intae an oothoose in the Dungarroch's steadin, an wee Jackie was brocht up mainly by his grandparents. The baith of them loo'd the laddie, wha had sic a look o their Jennie aboot the een, an his curly pow. When he stertit tae talk, at lang last, Jackie ca'd them Noona an Dumpa Dungarees, which was the best he could mak o Grandma and Grandpa Dungarroch.
But if his tongue was kinna thick, his hands were richt eager an quick tae help oot aroon the kitchen, kneadin the dough for their daily breid or creamin the butter for cakes, or addin yeast tae the barley an hops for Dungarroch's famous brew. Up an doon the cellar stairs he'd rin, an soon the auld pair couldna think hoo they'd managed wi'oot him.
His faither, meantime, sat oot amang his wee boxes o cogs, springs an sprockets, carefully mendin anither watch or clock tae jine the tickin, clangin chorus oan the shelves abune his heid. He was a dour-lookin man, noo, wersh as yin o thae craib-aipples that Noona Dungarees turned intae sweet reid jelly ilka October. But naebody could sweeten Wullie Jackeson; even whan he drank ower muckle o Dungarroch's beer, it didna cheer him.
Yin dae, Jackie went intae his faither's workshop an fand him doon oan his knees, sweepin up the stour frae the flair wi a wee brush, an siftin through it.
'Whit're ee lookin for, Dad?'
'Och, I've lost a wee jewel that hauds the spring oan thon watch I'm mendin. Staun oot o the licht, son. It bounced awa frae my fingers. Get oot the road noo.'
'But it's richt in front o yer neb!'
'Dinnae try tae get smert wi me, laddie. If it was that easy tae see, dae ye think I'd be doon here oan my hands an knees? Get awa wi ye, if ye cannae help. An wha says neb nooadays? That's anither o your Grandpa's words. The sooner you get tae the schuil and learn tae talk right the better.'
'But it is richt in front o your nose! It's stuck oan there like a wee plook!' An shair eneuch, the wee jewel had bounced aff the spring an stuck tae the sweat oan the watchmaker's nose. But was he gratefu that his laddie had pointed this oot? No yin bit.
Time passit. When Jackie was aboot echt his grandmither deed. There were gey fewer cakes on the table for neebours an freens efter her funeral, though plenty o ale: Jackie an his grandfaither had surpassed theirsels in her honour: the brew minded ye o the warmth o the auld wumman's hert, the gouden lichts in her hair when the sun streamed in at the kitchen windae, wi the faem as white as her fists when she maxt in a wheen mair flour tae the dough she was kneadin.
Jackie an his grandpa baith felt the loss o her; an the bairns frae the toun as weel, wha used tae ca in by the back door for broon or broken biscuits frae the tray. They didnae come by ony mair, an sae Jackie spent maist o his spare time helpin tae brew the beer. But the auld man's hert wisnae in it noo, an the stock o ale in the kegs ran doon. Sae whan he deed a year or sae eftir his wife, there wisnae muckle ale for the table, nor cakes neither: a gey gloomy funeral day at the steadin.
Gloomier morns followit thon. Wee Jackie was alane noo with his faither, wha hadnae a lot o time for him, it seemed. He had his ain worries: digital clocks an battery watches were aa the rage, an there was less an less ca these days for his watchmendin skills. Through the windae o his workshop Wullie Jackeson could see his laddie playin aboot the gairden, a daft chasin game atween the fruit bushes, swingin a stick at enemies naebody kent but hissel. Wullie had ower few clocks tae mend, and a lot mair time tae plan a move: mebbe the big city would chinge his luck.
Sae yin eftirnoon he cam oot o the workshop an said tae Jackie, wha was chasin aboot eftir naithin, as usual: 'Son, haud oan noo. Stop yir daft gemm an listen tae me. It's high time we were movin oot o here. The morn's morn we'll get packed up, walk tae the road end an catch the bus for Glesga, an see if we can no find a wee watchmaker's shop wi mair customers. It'll be easy eneuch tae wind up the business here, for there's ver'near nae wark left.'
'But Dad,' said Jackie, 'we needna gan tae the city. I hae the answer tae aa oor problems.'
'Whit dae ye mean? A daft laddie like you kens nowt aboot it.'
'Weel, I ken its no a maitter o windin up the business, for a stert: the problem is that the clocks are aa windin doon! An it's no high time tae leave, it's a low time, a slow time, a stop-an-think-afore-ye-get-oan-yer-bike-an-go time.'
His faither had never heard him string sae mony words thegither at yin go, an he was dumfoonert by whit the laddie was sayin.
'Dad, ye ken yersel that digital watches dinna need windin up or doon: wee batteries keep them gan. An it's nae use walkin awa frae a problem when aa ye'll meet are mair daft folk oan the road, wha cannae sort oot their ain lives, let alane help you wi yours. Na, the answer's here, an it's in the beer!'
'But your grandpa's deid, son. There's nae beer left. I had the last bottle masel yesterday dinner time.'
The laddie looked straucht at his faither. 'There's a wheen o yeast yet in the kegs that'll brew guid beer. My grandpa tellt me aa he kent aboot the grains, the mault, the water an the fire, the sugar an the leevin yeast that warks it aa thegither intae the final brew. It just wants a wee bit time tae mature in the cellar an we'll hae aa the beer we need.'
'But we cannae live on beer, son.'
'Na, faither, but we can live aff it! We can open the steadin as an inn -- folk ayways hae a guid drouth at plooin time, or plantin time, or hairst time, or ony time, cam tae think o it.'
'I can see that ye hae it aa worked oot, son,' his faither smiled. 'But whit dae ye need me for?'
'Weel, ye ken how tae mak things fair run like clockwork, Dad. Ye'll hae loads tae dae wi keepin things richt while I'm doon the cellar. An we'll aye need somebody tae caa oot Time, Gentlemen, Please! At the end o the nicht.'
An that is how the Dundarroch Arms Inn stertit up, which ye can still see oan the brae there, oot oan the Thornhill Road. Jackie and Wullie Jackeson worked thegither frae morn till nicht for mony a year, wi narry a cross word atween them, an aathing flowin as smooth as the beer frae Grandpa Dundarroch's auld kegs.
Try a wee drappie if ye're gan by there yin day (they dae guid filled rolls an aa, hame baked). But dinna drink ower muckle, or it'll lee ye as daft as the mannie shovelin chuckies wi a gairden fork. Or the lassie waterin her pownies wi a silver ladle. Or even thon wifie searchin high an low for her sleepwalkin man, haudin in her weary hands an empty pair o breeks.
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Daft Jackie. 2023. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 7 December 2023, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=46.
"Daft Jackie." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2023. Web. 7 December 2023. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=46.
The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Daft Jackie," accessed 7 December 2023, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/document/?documentid=46.
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