Document 521

Loon (extract)

Author(s): Sheena Blackhall

Copyright holder(s): Sheena Blackhall, Dr James Robertson: Signed on behalf of Itchy Coo, a partnership between Black & White Publishing and Dub Busters.

This document contains language which some may find offensive



Bit o luck wis it nae, the skweel veesitin the Hame last wikk, an me findin oot that Syd Paterson, their newest pensioner, wis ma verra ain Granda!

"It's affa gweed fur teenagers tae learn aboot anither generation," Plug McAndrew the English teacher telt us. "We dinna pye eneuch attention tae senior citizens. We can learn a lot fae them if we jist till time tae listen."

Auld Syd didna ken me fae the butcher's dug, an me his ain flesh an bluid. He'd niver clapped een on me afore, didna even ken I existed, didna even ken my Da wis merriet. My Da niver lets dab aboot fit he did as a bairn. He ay said ma Granda wis deid langsyne. Shows aa he kens. His heid's fu o mince.

It wis the Matron fa spottit me connection. "Is yon nae jist uncannie?" she said. "Here's young Donnie Paterson fae the Academy sharin a cuppie o tea wi oor Syd, as if the baith o them wis best freens. Same last name, same fernietickles, same hook neb an jug lugs - Bonnie Prince Charlie lugs - same ..." An syne, somethin clicked on in her heid, like traffic lichts lettin an idea ging through. "Did you iver hae ony faimly hereaboots, Syd?" she speired.

"Ay. Ay I did," quo the auld man. "I wis a fisherman fin I wis young. I merriet a quine in me toun o Aiberdon. A bonnie wee thing. Bit she ran aff wi a larry driver fin she wis sax months pregnant, an they gaed tae bide in the clachan o Newbiggin, three miles ooto the toun, aboot hauf a mile fae here, in fact. I heard efterhin she hid a loon, Danny Paterson ... gaed bi the byname o Digger. Niver met him, tho. Better aa roon. Jist confuses bairns, haein twa Daas. Thocht it wis better tae bide awa, let them get on wi't."

Weel, I couldna believe fit I wis hearin! Digger Paterson's my Da! Auld Syd wisna tae ken that Granny Paterson an her larry driver boyfreen war baith killed in a crash fin the cab skytit on blaik ice comin hame fae a run doon tae Glesga. It wisna Auld Syd's wyte that my da wis fostered oot. Auld Syd said he niver merriet again, didna trust weemin efter thon, jist gaed back tae the trawlers tae earn eneuch fur a dram an a tinnie o roll ups fin he cam back onshore efter a trip tae the fishin gruns. Bedd bi hissel up a tenement stair fur the last thirty year. He said the maist excitin thing that iver happened tae him apairt fae gaun tae sea wis gettin a pair o silk pyjamas through the door ae day fin a postie mistook his address fur that o a young Dutch lassie across the lobby.

Some o the ithers in my class didna like the veesit tae the Auld Fowk's Hame, they said it gaed them the heebie-jeebies it wis that quaet, nae muckle soun bar the tickin o the wag at the waa. They thocht it wis like bein in a greenhoose. Some o the quines didna like the smell o the place, a cross atween laundry, disinfectant, an auld bodachs' swyte. Bit I likit it. I likit the quaet. I've a younger sister an brither at hame an they're ay fechtin. Fin Da cams hame fae the pub blootered, Ma an him argy-bargy an skreich at ane anither like a TV programme ye'd raither nae watch, bit ye canna switch aff aa the same. Sae I likit the quaet o the Auld Fowk's Harne - it felt safe.

An I likit Auld Syd, cause he listened, ye see, like I maittered, like he really really winted tae hear fit I wis sayin. Like fit I wis sayin meant somethin, even if it wis anely blethers aboot skweel or weather or fa beat the Academy fitba team last Friday. The time fair flew by. I fand masel tellin him foo I wintit tae be a vet, aboot Ashley Higgins, aboot the vandalism doon at the kirk an foo aabody blamed me bit it wisna ...

I think the clincher, the decidin factor that gart me wint tae gae back, cam fin the Matron brocht roon the custard slices. I hate custard. It ay minds me on budgie's keech. I canna thole it, niver could, bit it's ma sister Leanne's favourite. An fin my Ma makks custard, I hae tae eat it even if it gars me cowk.

Last wikk Da'd bin wirkin late. Whiles, he stauns in as a security guaird at a warehoose ooto the toun. He'd dane a stint as barman at the howf in oor clachan, The Blaik Bull, afore that. I suppose he wis weariet. I suppose he wis scunnert wi haein tae pye bills, he girns aboot it aften eneuch. He's niver tired o sayin fit a gran life he'd hae if he didna ay hae his haun in his pooch fur trainers, or skweel ootins, or bills - in short, if he wis still single wi nae bairns roon his neck like a millsteeen.

He cam in the door as Ma wis gettin torn intae me fur nae ettin the custard she'd made fur the tea.

"I wirk lang oors tae feed you, ye thankless wee vratch," he said. "Ye'll eat fit yer mither pits doon in front o ye or ye'll sit at thon table aa nicht."

Ma wee brither Craig suppit his custard an ran tae Da tae get a bosie an climm on his knee, an Leanne feenished hers quick smert an wis playin wi her dallies at Ma's feet, fin Da pued a hauf o fuskey fae his jaiket pooch an cowped a big slug o't inno his mug o tea. A "birse cup", he caas it.

"See him, yer big loon," he said tae my Ma (he ay makks oot I'm nae his bairn fin he's roosed, it's niver "oor loon", ay hers...), "ye've got him spyled, clean connached. He's as muckle gumption aboot him, thon ane, as a burst tyre."

I sat awa at the table glowerin doon at the custard, watchin it growe three skins an a beard, tryin nae tae cowk, keepin ma een doon on the tablecloot. I'll be fowerteen on ma birthday, bit I'm sma fur ma age an Da's sax fit an braid wi't, sae I dinna wint tae catch his ee, tae set him aff, like a Halloween squib. He sookit awa at his toddy, whiles puffin at a fag wi ae haun an bosie-in wee Craig wi tither, whiles lookin ower at me dowpit doon at the table glowerin inno the bowl o cauld custard. Efter a while, the fusky took the jeel aff his temper. He set doon his birse cup on the mantlepiece, grun the heid o his lichtit fag in the ashtray an lowsed the pynts in his richt buit.

"Eat thon custard, ye wee bastard," he threatened, "or sae help me I'll stot this buit aff yer lug."

I niver luikit richt or left. I jist kept lookin doon.

"Defy me, wid ye? Ay weel, we'll see aboot that, my lad."

He wis gettin hissel wrocht up, spylin fur a row. I widna gie him ane. I hate rows. He tuik anither lang swig fae the mug o toddy, set Craig aff his knee, crossed the fleer in twa strides an afore I could jink awa, he grippit me by the scruff o the neck an shoved ma hale face splat inno the custard. Hauf o the sticky weet soss gaed ower the table, the lave wis stukken tae ma een, neb, moo an hair.

"I'll gie ye custard, ye picky wee bugger," quo he. "I pye fur the meat that's doon on the table afore ye. Bit oh no, wir boyo here disna like it. Nae fancy eneuch fur ye? Nae jist tae yer taste? No, I suppose it's nae. Raither hae a Chinese cairryoot mebbe, like yer wealthy wee pals fa's Das wirk affshore in the ile? Get yer girnin face ooto ma sicht. Go on. Shift yersel afore I really get goin. Ye dinna deserve tae sit wi the rest o the faimly. Get yersel upstairs tae yer room an bide in't."

His voice raise fae a gurr tae a roar. I kent I should hae moved faister. He gaed me a skelp on the lug in passin, that gart the side o ma heid dirl an stoon. Richt efter, a wee treelip o bluid cam ooto ma lug far his neive hid beltit me. I could see Ma wis feart kind at thon.

"Ye'll makk him deef or daft if ye dinna haud aff him, Digger," she said as she follaed me up the stairs wi a weet cloot tae dicht awa the bluid.

"There noo. Aa better. Richt as rain. Nae hairm dane. Ye brocht aa thon on yersel, Donnie," she continued. "Ye shouldna roose yer Da. Ye ken foo hard he wirks. It's nae easy bringin up faimly. Bide ooto his road till the morn's mornin. Ach, there's naethin wirth watchin on TV onywye the nicht. Ye can catch up on yer Maths assignments up here. An if yer quaet, eence aabody's beddit, ye could ay creep doon the stairs an makk some toast."

Sae fin the Matron at the Auld Fowk's Harne brocht roon a platefu o custard slices, I cooried doon.

"Loon, if ye dinna like the custard slices, ye can hae a hett scone," Auld Syd said. "Naebody here's gaun tae makk ye ett something ye dinna like. I winna eat noodle soup, it minds me on suppin wirms, an I get sandwiches insteid on noodle soup days."

An he smiled, like it wis jist naethin nae ettin the custard slice, like it wis OK nae tae like somethin.

I decided then I'd gae back tae see Auld Syd masel, withoot the Academy, withoot bein telt tae. Nae as a "good deed" or a "special intergenerational project", bit jist cause he wis kin. Furthermair, I decided nae tae tell my Da aboot Granda, fur he jist spyles aathin. The Harne's a quaet place. Da wid anely cause a stooshie an raise a din. He could cause a row in a teem hoose, fecht wi his ain shadda, my Da. Auld Fowk are like crystal glaisses, affa easy broken an Da's got a talent fur brakkin things, a real gift.

The lave o the fowk in the Hame war sittin in a circle slumpit ower cheers like a wheen pot plants needin watterin fin I walked in, bit Granda wis sittin in a neuk o the Day Room, his glaisses doon at the eyn o his neb, teetin at the papers.

"Veesitor fur ye Mr Paterson," the Matron telt him. "It's thon loon again, yer grandson..."

I tuik in photies o the faimly, tae show ma Granda fit we aa luik like, even tho he hid a job mindin ma name, even tho the Matron telt him three times my name wis Donnie.

"Fit kinna name's 'Donnie'?" speired Granda. "Foo dae fowk nae christen their laddies Sandy, or Dod or Jimmy, nooadays?"

He caas me "loon", bit I dinna mind really. It's the wye ye spikk tae a body that maitters, nae the label ye gie them, in't it!

He pit doon his paper richt aff, like he wis really pleased tae see me.

"I'll bring you twa a fly cuppie," said the Matron an aff she gaed at the trot.

"An nae custard slices," cried Granda efter her. "The loon here disna like them."

I'd gaen tae the Hame richt fae skweel, wi the photies in ma skweel bag.

I tuik oot a photie o ma faither, first aff. I thocht that anely richt, seein's he wis Granda's anely son.

"Sae yon's yer Da, is't?" quo he. "Digger Paterson? Ay, that wid be richt. He'd be aboot thirty-five noo. An haudin doon twa jobs y'say ... security guaird an barman? Bit ye didna tell him aboot me?"

I shook ma heid. I didna wint Da tae spyle this fur me. I wis feart Da'd makk a feel o me like he usually dis. I wis fean he'd turn Granda against me, an ye wint at least ae body in yer faimly tae like ye, div'nt ye noo?

"He's a big brosie kinno a chiel," quo Granda. "Nae a shilpit wee craitur like you or me."

"Fit's shilpit, Granda?" I speired.

"Sma boukit ...on the wee side. Na, yer Da's like his mither's fowk. He disna favour my side ava. They war aa muckle hefty breets the McKays. Bruisers, ye ken. Nae that yer granny wis hefty fin I kent her, bit her fowk war, the McKays ay rin tae fat."

Some o fit Granda comes oot wi is gey queer. I thocht on a hale heeze o McKays rinnin efter a side o fatty bacon an I leuch.

He pit ma Da's photie doon on the table like he wis playin a game o patience. I showed him a pictur o ma mither. Her name's Margo. She's a year aulder than ma Da. Wirks pain time at a hairdressin salon in Aiberdon, so whiles I've tae childmind ma brither an sister.

"Nae bad fur the age o her," quo Granda, like he wis spikkin aboot a dug or a shelt. "Bit ye've taen efter me in luiks. The Patersons war aa fernietickelt, wi jug lugs."

Neist, I tuik oot a photie o Craig an Leanne. Craig's sax an Leanne's eleyven, an ane's as bad's the ither fur argy-bargy. We aa share a room, tho at near fowerteen I should hae ane tae masel, bit there's nae eneuch cooncil hooses tae ging roon wi aabody buyin them noo, like cherry-pickin the best. Craig an masel hae bunk beds, me on tap an him aneth. Jist as weel, cause whiles he weets the bed.

"Thon twa takk efter yer mither," Auld Syd grunted.

I showed him a photie o Granny Menzies, mither's Ma. I dinna like Granny Menzies. Ye canna hoast in her hoose or she'll be dichtin awa the germs wi a cloot. Ye've tae takk yer sheen aff at the door an nae finger the remote control an nae takk shotties o her mobile phone. Granny Menzies says teenagers are aa druggies an drunks an sex mad forbye an nae tae be trusted twa meenits in a decent hoose, or they'll be eein up yer video an CD tae cam back an chore them fur fags or glue or fitiver. Granny Menzies dresses young fur her age... as young as Ma ...nae that Ma's young, bit ye ken fit I mean... like media fowk, fashion-conscious, ye ken.

"Auld wifies fa dress as young as that should iron their face, first," quo Granda. "It maun gie men an affa shock fin she turns roon an they see she's saxty-five if she's a day. ..Dis she ay look as if she's sookin a nippy sweetie?"

Weel, I hid tae lauch richt oot then, cause she dis.

The hinmaist photie I showed him wis o ma dug Fox. Fox is a reidishy-broon Alsatian. Da bocht Fox as a pup fur Leanne, bit ye canna buy a dug's affection, an he disna like Leanne, he anely follaes me.

"He's nae your dug, he niver will be your dug, he's yer sister's dug," Da says, fin he wints tae wind me up. Bit I dinna care, cause I ken it's a lee.

"I hid a futterat fin I wis your age," Granda telt me. "Bit I didna ging rubbitin wi't. I keepit it as a pet."

I telt him my Da gaed rubbitin eence a month in the poachin season. He keeps a shotgun in the cubby at the tap the stairs. It bides in a box, alang wi his cartridges. He took me wi him eence, gart me haud the shotgun, pynt it at a rubbit, pu the trigger, fire... It lat oot a lood crack an kickit back, near caain ma shooder oot o its socket. I hit the rubbit, first shot. I didna enjoy it. The crack o the gun fleggit me. "Beginner's luck," Da said. He tuik me up tae see the rubbit. It wis lyin on its side, kickin an kickin, its een rowin roon in its heid, makkin mewin souns, bluid frothin in wee bubbles ooto its mou.

"Weel, feenish it then," he telt me. Bit I couldna, I jist couldna. He liftit a steen an chappit it ower the heid, an its harns spirkit up ower ma sheen. Syne he steepit his hauns in its bluid an dichtit my face wi't. "That's ye bluided noo," quo he.

"Yer first kill."

I telt ma Granda I didna feel prood at aa, killin the rubbit. Fox disna kill either, he's a muckle spyled pettit lump. He dis chase rubbits, bit he niver catches them.

Bi noo the care wirkers wis spreidin fite cloots ontae the tables fur the evenin meal. I couldna bide langer wi Granda onywye, cause I'd tae be hame afore teatime tae let my Ma dae an evenin shift at "Hair by Claire", the Salon far she wirks. She canna rely on Da tae watch the littlins, cause Friday's his nicht oot. Sae it wis doon tae me as usual, or they'd be rinnin wild aa roon the clachan. Mrs McGillivray neist door'd promised tae len me a video o cartoons tae keep them quaet, sae it micht be easier nur usual, bit I'd far raither hae met ma pals doon in the squar, tae skateboard or jist fur a news an lauch an a bit o a cairry-on.

The Hame's a mile an a hauf fae my hoose, an the rain wis stottin doon fin I left it, sae I wis sypin fin I ran up oor pathie, jist eneuch time tae let Fox oot tae pee ower the washin pole afore Ma'd tae set aff tae wirk.

I'm thinkin I'll manage tae see my Granda twice a wikk efter the Academy skails, an they micht let me takk him oot in his wheelcheer like a gweed library buik some wikkeyn, jist him an me, sae he can meet Fox an get a whiff o fresh air. I micht even chore some o Da's best whisky, tae gie him a wee scoof fur a treat. Fit dae auld bodachs dae fur treats? Fit dae they think aboot? Fit dae they like. ..or dinna like? I dinna ken. Mebbe I should speir. Auld Syd's the first auld body I've iver really spent time wi.

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Loon (extract). 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 21 May 2024, from

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Information about Document 521

Loon (extract)


Text audience

Teenagers (13-17)
Audience size N/A

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Word count 3235

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Itchy Coo
Publication year 2003
Place of publication Edinburgh
ISBN/ISSN 1-902927-72-9
Part of larger text
Contained in Extract from 'Loon', contained in "Double Heider//: Twa Novellas in Scots"
Editor Authors: Sheena Blackhall and Hamish MacDonald
Page numbers Extract pp. 3-10

Text setting


Text type



Author details

Author id 112
Forenames Sheena
Surname Blackhall
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1940
Educational attainment University
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Brought up Protestant, now Buddhist
Occupation Writer and supply teacher
Place of birth Aberdeen
Region of birth Aberdeen
Birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Aberdeen
Region of residence Aberdeen
Residence CSD dialect area Abd
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Manager of Deeside Omnibus Service
Father's place of birth Aboyne
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Private Secretary
Mother's place of birth Aberdeen
Mother's region of birth Aberdeen
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes Elementary. Gaelic choir. Poetry.
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes