Document 528

Craiters: 04 - E Backlins Calfie

Author(s): Alexander Fenton

Copyright holder(s): Alexander Fenton


Fin I wis a loon, I bade on a 10 acre craftie. Ma faither wis in eez shoppie for a lot o e time, haimmerin tackets into beet soles, sae I got a lot tae dee aboot e place. Depennin on e time o ear, I’d be hyowin neeps, scythin laid corn an binnin e shaves, stookin (minin fit a fairmer eence tellt’s: ‘Stook aye tae Bennachie’), forkin ontil e cairt or ontil e rucks in e cornyard or up till e threshin platform o e traivellin mullie. Ere was some gey caal winter jobs, fyles haein tae use e neep pluck tae haal e yallas or e swads oot o e dreel in hard frosts, though even fin e snaa wis like ice wi half thaain an freezin again, as aften as no there’d be a kinna halla ringie in e snaa abeen e shaas o ilky neep, e same’s e life o e thing wis breathin its ain warmth. Eence ey were oot ye’d knack aff e tails wi e tailer – or e tapner, if e shaas cam tapmist in yer min – an begod fyles e boddem o e frozen neep split aff, e colour o’t for aa ye’d ken like yon iced lollies e bairns is aa sae feel aboot nooadays.

Ere wis some richt smellie jobs like teemin e midden at e back o e byre. Ye cd graip e muck oot fae e byre throwe e muck-hole at e back aifter ye’d openet a widden doorie, though ivery sae aften ye’d tae gang oot an level e heap oot ower e midden tae haad it on blockit e openin. It wisna jist byre muck at geed oot. We’d an ootside widden lavvie wi a little windae high up an a wire sneckie on e inside, an a nail for squaries o paper, maybe e Weekly News or e Peoples Freen or e Press an Journal or e Peoples Journal. Ye cd sit ere readin as lang as ere wis licht, bit is wis a richt torment tae be in e middle o an interestin snippetie fin ye come til e torn bit, an like as no ye’d niver get e ither bit. Aathing geed intil a big pail, an fin es wis full, een o e jobs I files did wis tae teem’t. Nae likin tae get ma hans clairted, I’d tak a hyow oot o e barn an use it as a heist tae cairry e yomin load roon til e midden, faar it wis beeriet. Bit iv coorse fin e midden wis bein teemed, e lot wid come tae licht. It wis e neeperin fairmer at cam wi eez cairt tae dee e teemin (an at ither times we wid gie him a han wi e neeps or e hairst, it wis a fine wye o wirkin egidder), an

‘God’, said Joe, as e beeriet treasure cam up, ‘ere’s aathing in’t!’

Iv coorse, bein at e skweel an gaan in for byeuks mint ye hidna aa at time for fairm wirk throwe e wik. Ye’d mair interest in a baggie o chips fae e chipper fin ye got oot o yer classes, syne aff on e five mile trek hame on yer bike tae see fit yer mither hid kept hait for ye in e range oven fae their denner, an nae lang ahin at we’d hae wir supper. It’s winnerfae fit young lads’ll pit awa in e wye o mait.

I aye likit tae be ootside, sae I niver let ma hamework hinner’s lang, an ma mither aye hid a fyow jobbies till’s – hackin sticks for kennlers on e hack block efter saain aff linths on a saain steel, if naebody else hid deen’t, fullin pails o water at e pump in e hens’ riv an cairryin em intill e wee tablie in e porch, caain in e twa kye tae be milkit, an sic like, nae forgettin e eynless howkin up o bishop-weed in e yard – bit e main wirk in e parks hid tae be deen at wikeyns an holidays. Bein a swack lad at likit tae rin roon parks an lowp palins, an bein prood o ma strong airms, I wis niver slow tae gie a haan at hard jobs, fither at hame or on fairms roon aboot. Files I’d half kill masel teemin a bogy o manure bags. Young birkies ay likes tae be a bittie macho.

Wi aa is, I ay sleepit soon. I hid a room up e stair, faar I kept ma books, birds’ eggs an aa kinna fairlies githered in ma wannrins. Ere wis nae electric in e hoose bit I wis at essed tae gaan aboot in e dark I cd rin up e stair at a fair rate an it pick dark. I doot wir instincts hiv degenerated a bittie wi is days o lichts awye. E roomie wis coom-ceiled, at ae eyn o e landin, an at e far eyn ere wis ma faither’s room, faar e sleepit wi ma twa brithers. Fit wye I’d got fowk invaigled intae lettin’s hae a room tae masel, I dinna min. Ere wis a linin o some kinna composition boordin covered wi an orangy distemper. Fin ye wis lyin in yer bed, jist doverin, ye’d aften hear e mice playin ahin e boords, bit deil care, ey niver did ony hairm. Bonny grey craiters, e moosies.

Ah weel, ere wis es time I’d faan richt soon asleep, fin ma mither wakent’s. I cam tae masel and saa er face, anxious-like in e yalla licht o a paraffin lamp.

‘Cd ye rise an gie yer father a han wi e coo in e byre?’

Sae on goes ma sark and ma breeks an ma jersey, an ma beets fae doon e stair, an aff e bold boy goes.

It wis een o is crafties faar e hoose an e steadin wis in a lang line. Ye geed oot o e hoose throwe a green paintit widden porch, wi a door at hid a lock though it wis niver lockit, an onywye I’d fun oot I cd open e lock an shut it again wi ae eyn o ma bicycle clip. Ye passed a wee strippie o gairden crivved in wi a widden railin jist in front o e kitchen windae – aye, e kitchen wis e livin room as weel – an syne ye cam till e barn door. Ye geed intill e barn tae get intill e byre, at least at wis e shortest road, itherwise ye’d tae gang richt doon till e roadside tae win till e door in e gale at e beas geed oot an in at. It wis dark iv coorse es nicht sae I coudna jist see fit I’m tellin ye aboot, bit ye jist keep e picter kinna in yer heid tae gye yer feet, same’s ye mith dee if ye geed blin. I fan my wye ower e barn fleer, hearin aye e reemishin fae e byre, liftit e sneck an in I geed.

Weel ere wis a byre lantren hingin fae a bent weerie slung ower a couple. At wis e first think i saa, swyin wi e meevement in anaith. E yalla licht wis flicherin an e lamp gless wis a bittie rickit bit naebody wis takin time tae sort it. Neesht – tae be richt ere wis nae neesht, for aathing jist cam at’s like a bolt o lichtnin – I saa a reed sotter at e coo’s tail, twa black slimy glisterin feet stickin oot, a kinna crossed, a rope roon em an ma faither haalin aa eez strinth an aye skyte-skytin wi eez tacketies amon e muck an strang an bleed in e greep. E muckle smith wis stannin aside e coo, sark sleeves rowed up an eez han inside e coo tryin tae ease e backlins calfie oot. E coo, a great big eesie-osie black an fite Friesian, wis moanin awa laich, pushin itsel an tryin ay tae look roon though its sell widna jist let it.

‘Tak at rope’,

said ma faither hairse, swyte dreepin doon eez face anaith e snoot o eez bonnet, an I jined in e tug-o-war.

‘Steady noo’, said Brookie, ‘haive, haive again, an again’.

Haadin yer feet wis chancy wirk bit e twa o’s kept at it, an God I wyte it nott maist o wir strinth, baith egither, an I wis gey near greetin oot o peety for e coo stannin ere moanin an feert for e calfie wi e rope roon its hin legs like tae brak em, even if we cd get it oot in time for’t nae tae smore amon e plyter.

‘Jesus’, roared e smith, ‘she’s comin’,

an e calf cam wi a rush, plypin doon on e strae laid ahin e coo. Ma faither wis a toonser, nae jist acquant wi sic wark, bit e smith kent fit tae dee aa richt, an he redd e snotter fae e calfie’s nose wi eez fingers an there it lay fobbin, a new livin bein, neen e waar for e warsle o gettin’t intill e world. Ahin at we got wirsels washed, bit it wis a filie or I won tae sleep.

E neesht nicht fin I cam hame fae e skweel (an I hidna said muckle aboot it ere), ere wis calfie’s cheese tae wir supper, deen in a dish in e oven, wi cinnamon on tap. I niver did like e stuff.

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Information about Document 528

Craiters: 04 - E Backlins Calfie


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Informed lay people
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 1994
Word count 1628

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Tuckwell Press
Publication year 1995
Place of publication East Linton
ISBN/ISSN 1898410739
Edition First
Part of larger text
Contained in Craiters. Or Twenty Buchan Tales

Text setting

Other Putting the dialect on record, Aberdeenshire

Text type

Prose: fiction
Prose: nonfiction
Short story


Author details

Author id 27
Forenames Alexander
Surname Fenton
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1920
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Academic/Writer/Editor
Place of birth Shotts
Region of birth Lanark
Birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Edinburgh
Region of residence Edinburgh
Residence CSD dialect area Edb
Father's occupation Shoemaker
Father's place of birth Aberdeen
Father's region of birth Aberdeen
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Abd
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife\Crofter
Mother's place of birth Keith
Mother's region of birth Banff
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Bnf
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes At work
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes At home and wherever possible