Document 530

Craiters: 06 - E Hens Riv

Author(s): Alexander Fenton

Copyright holder(s): Alexander Fenton


Ere wis a gweed lot o space for e hens on e craft, for ey brocht in siller wi eir eggs, ir ye cd swap em for groceries fin e van cam. Bit ey fluffert aboot an trampit an made eir mess aawye an ere wis nae girse or greenery left in e riv, haad awa fae e boortree busses at e back o e hoose, an e big trees at tried hard bit wi little success tae shelter e craftie. Ye cam intill e close aff e main road, passin e drain fae e midden at took e bree in anaith e road an oot intill e park on Charlesfield Craft. It hid a gweed honest smell, an wis aften enyeuch chokit onywye. I niver min naebody thinkin naething aboot it.

Byre, barn an hoose wis in line on e left haan side, an e yard on e richt. It wis a big yard, wi a palin o widden spars on three sides, an a beech hedge neesht e road. It grew tatties in season, ere wis a big patch o rhubarb for makin jam at ye took on yer piece or as a sweetener wi yer semolina, sago or tapioca, ilky clump ornamentit wi an upside doon boddemless pail tae force on e stalkies in e spring. A dish o fresh rhubarb, bilet an sweetent an maybe aiten wi a tickie breid – at’s oatcakes, ye ken -, wis supposet tae be gweed for cleanin oot e system, I suppose like pittin new ile intill an ingine, bit I canna say I iver noticet much difference an I niver fanciet e stuff much onywye. Fin ye pat milk ontill’t in yer puddin plate it turned aa soor an I jist winner fit it did tae yer intimmers.

E tap an e far yard palins made twa sides o e hens’ riv, an atween e porch o e hoose an e yard, ere wis a gate intill e riv, made o nettin weer on a frame. Ere wis mair nettin weer at various ither pints tae try tae haad e hens in (e dyeuks an turkeys wisna sae bad), bit ye niver managet aaegither, mair sae fin ere wis a park o ripe corn within sicht.

Tae tell ye e truth, ere wis files fin ye hid tae haad oot as weel’s haad in. We hid a reengy reed coo, an Ayrshire, at geed a lot o milk though it hid ae blin tit, a aiftereffecks o mastitis, an she wis jist e best expert at iver I saa at winnins throwe palins. If she wis grazin in e park alangside an ma mither hid e washin oot – e line wis in e hens’ riv tee – at coo (she niver hid ony name bit ‘e reed coo’) wid gunge aboot ir she won throwe tae get a chaa o e aaprons or sarks or fitiver wis hingin ere. Files she managet it ir she wis noticet. An aafa best! Ye daardna lat ont bairns intill e same park wi er, she’d a gone for em. Jist a richt crafter’s coo, ye micht say, an she hid er faats, bit she geed gweed milk an ay e ither calfie in due time.

E riv ran roon twa sides o e yard, roon e back o e hoose an doon as far as e back o e milkhoose at juttit oot fae e back o e kitchen, alang wi a smaa roomie at hid a biler for fin ye did a big wash, or aan aboot e New Ear I min e smith at bade ere afore’s wid bile a monster clootie dumplin in’t. Here at e back o e hoose ere wis a boortrees, wi eir bonnie sweet floories at e loons likit aye tae snuff at e floorishin time, an syne shiny black berries, bit itherwise es wis a caal, bare kinna nyeuk an we niver played in’t much, haad awa maybe fae cuttin a boortree branch tae mak a pluffer, powkin oot e saft, fite intimmers wi a handy bit o palin weer. Even e hens didna aftern come roon here tae scrape. Ere mith a been an antrin rat tee, an I’ve seen e odd een clammerin aboot a heap o steens gaithert aff e park alangside, haived ower e palin an jist left for aa eternity aside e boortree buss. It wis jist fit ye micht caa deid grun.

Fit wis a lot mair handy wis e big trees in e main bit o e riv. I aye likit tae speel trees, for ae thing. For anither, I eest tae play aboot wi all-farrant electronic, an if ye wintit gweed reception fae yer crystal set wi its cat’s whisker, ye’d tae hae a gweed spread o aerials. I ran weers fae ma up-e-stair bedroom windae tae different trees an throwe at I managet tae get a lot o e world intae ma hans, or tae be mair exact, intae ma lugs throwe a heidphone. I fixed on a tuner, a great big breet o a thing, fae a defunct battery wireless, an maistly it wirkit fin I took e patience tae let it.

Bein young an likely stupit, an bein a bittie teen wi Wild West stories I got tae read fae some o e fairm chiels, wi eir reel Indians an eir tammiehaaks, I took a fancy for throwin an aix at een o e big tree trunks. Aifter a filie, I got rale gweed at garrin e blade stick in. It didna dee e tree much gweed; bit on e ither hand, it cowert it fine an it didna tak lang for e scars tae seal up. An eeseless kinna ploy, bit fit’s nae in e tail o e day?

E riv didna jist haad hens. Inside it wis e watter pump at supplied e hoose. Mony a pailfae I’ve pumpit an cairriet intill e porch, faar een or aften twa pailies o fresh water wis keepit on tap o a tablie, an in anaith wis e orra pail for fool water. Fin es wis full, it hid tae be teemed intill e midden, ir aan it wattert e yard.

E pump wis cast-iron an it wirkit fine maist o e time. Noo an aan e washer geed deen an ma faither hid tae mak a new een oot o a bit o leather in eez souter’s shoppie. Eence ir twice I’ve seen e cover bein liftit for cleanin. Ye’d ging doon on a ledder, an faith it geed a gweed bittie doon. Ye hid tae keep e cover ticht in case a hennie fell in an droont, bit files something got in onywye an hid tae be redd oot. Naebody geed a thocht till e hen’s dirt aboot e moo o’t.

In a hait simmer, it aye geed dry, as eel’s a coo afore calvin, an syne ye got tae ken fit watter mint – ir e lack o’t. We’d tae runk a barra an a big milk-can, een at held a gey fyow gallons, an wheel’t doon e road a gweed quarter o a mile till a concrete cistren at e neesht fairm. Es een wis for keepin beas wattert an it niver geed dry. Ere wis an iron lid on a tap, closed be a bolt, an ye hid yae swing es back on its hinges, syne lean in tae lave oot pailfaes, een at a time. Ye’d tae lowp aff e heid o e cistren, heist e pail doon, haiv’t ower a steen dyke, teem’t intill e can on e barra, syne repeat e dose as aften as required till e can wis foo, an ready for its shoogly run back till e craft.

Ye fairly learnt tae be canny wi e watter. We’d nae sinks an nae drains tae squanner’t on, an iv coorse, nae bathroom. Fit I did wis tae take bilin water oot o e kettle abeen e fire in e reenge intill a basin, tap it up wi a tickie caal tae mak it loo-warm, syne I’d haad up tae ma room, steek e door, an start be washin ma heid. Followin e simple system o wirkin doonhill syne, I’d feenish up wi ma feet, an at e eyn e watter was likely gey din. E basin wis teemed intill e orra pail. It wis maybe jist an apology for a richt dook in a bath, bit fit ye’ve niver kent ye dinna miss, an I can tell ye at I ay felt richt smairt aifter sic a tap-te-tae dichtin. Ye cd aye hae a dook in e burn in e summer, aifter ye’d made a deepenin an cleared oot e water weeds, bit it niver felt e same. Ye wis aye feert somebody wid catch ye.

Onywye, fit’s hygiene? It’s aa jist a maitter o time an place. Ere wid a been e odd thocht aboot it on e craft, bit naebody hid e time tae be ower pernicketty. In my time, e estate at aacht e place pit up a new widden lavvie for’s. It sat aside e moo o e close, in e nyeuk o e widden shed at wis biggit tee till e byre. Aabody comin till e hoose door geed by’t. Afore at, we hid tae use een in e hens’ riv, ir nae jist exactly in e riv bit jist inside an aal henhoose biggit ontill e eyn o e hoose. Es henhoose wis o tarred, timmer planks an a tarred timmer reef tee, sae it wis black a ower, an ye got tarry bubbles an blisters fin e sin wis ower hait. Ye got intill e lavvie throwe a door at wis near ay left open for e hens tae rin oot an in, an for fowk tae gang in tae gaither e eggs, maist o em in nests bit e antrin een on e slopin platform anaith e reests, laid fin a hennie hid gotten excitet an made a mistaak. Ere wis aye some scraichin an flufferin aboot fin ye made a collection, an ye got e cloaker noo an aan at widna meeve an wis mair concerned tae pick yer fingers’n tae let ye gaither e treasures she wis hoordin. Jist on e left inside es door wis anither, made o backs, an a bit rickly, an es let ye intill e aal lavvie. Fit I min is sittin ere, hearkin till e soons o e hennies hard by yer lug, richt contintit fin e gloamin wis comin doon, an noticin e filterin in o fite styoo an bitties o quills an scales throwe e cracks in e dividin waa atween you an e reests. Ere wisna a lot o licht got in an it wisna as gweed for readin in’s e new lavvie.

Ere wis a lot aboot e hens’ riv tae dee wi e life o e craft. E hens laid eir eggs, an ma mither swappit em for groceries fin e van cam roon. Ere maybe wisna muckle lowse siller aboot e place, bit ere wis ay eggs an butter, en ye cd gey near manage wintin pennies. It wis e hens an e kye at keepit’s, ivery bit as much as ma faither’s shop.

Forbye, e hennies aye geed ye a chance o a pot o fine maamie broth. Ere wis twa wyes o deein. Files a hen got oot o e run an ontill e road, ay on e haik for fresh scraps gin ey cd get aff wi’t, an wid get run ower for ey’ve got nae sense fin it comes tae road safety. Ye’d hear a bump an e scraichin, an maybe widna be jist ill-pleased, for ye kent e broth pot wid be on, aifter due plottin an pluckin o fedders an haalin oot o intimmers. Bit files for a Sunday denner, or for e New Year, ye’d be makin hen broth onywye, sae ye’d tae gang intill e riv, an pick a victim for e slachter. Ma mither kent fine foo tae thraa eir necks an gie em a knackie bit she niver wis on for deein’t an at’s ae thing I niver wid tackle. At mint ma faither hid tae dee’t. Him bein a toonser far Aiberdeen, e hidna e nack. He’d tae tak e hannle o a besom, lay’t on e grun, pit e hen’s heck in anaith, tramp on e hannle wi ae fit an pu e legs wi aa eez micht, e wings wirkin meantime in holy terror. E scraichs seen qualled. It wisna e best wye tae dee’t, bit at’s fit e did. An sae we got wir hen broth (we caad it at firther it wis a cock or a hen), an e ither hens in e riv peyed not one iota o attention till e loss o een o eir nearest an dearest.

Aye, e hens’ riv hid a lot tae dee wi e life o e craft.

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Information about Document 530

Craiters: 06 - E Hens Riv


Text audience

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

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 1994
Word count 2225

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