Document 532

Craiters: 08 - E Forkietailies

Author(s): Alexander Fenton

Copyright holder(s): Alexander Fenton


‘E horny gollach’s an aasome beast,

Lang and scaly,

Wi a hullock o horns an a hantle o feet,

An a forkietailie’

At’s a gey made-up kinna rhyme. An it’s nae jist richt, for e forkietail’s nae scaly, at least nae in e wye at es dragons is supposed tae be scaly in e stories. Bit ey’re ugly lookin craiters richt enyeuch an e lad at made up at verse (I some doot e cam fae a bittie farrer sooth’n Aachterless) widna a likit een craalin intill eez lug ony mair’n onybody else. Ye jist get em aawye, files even anaith e front door mat at e hoose in Edinburgh, bit mair sae on e fairm an noo an aan ye get em in maist ondeemous haals at a time.

Een o e jobs I likit wis giein a han sortin palins ir deein’t masel fin naebody else wis aboot. Ere wis still puckles o gweed steen dykes, bit ey were growin aal an ere wisna e same experts aboot tae sort em ir pit up new eens. At wis e wye maist o e palins wis jist e widden posts an weer, plain or pikit. It wisna uncommon for a line o posts tae be haimmert in at e back o a dyke, maybe jist wi ae straan o pikit weer tae keep e beas aff e dyke itsel. Aa es mint ere wis aye a lot o sortin tae dee. E birz-birzin o beasts’ heids as ey tried tae win at a pickie o better like girse at e ither side o e palin slackent e weers an malageroost e posts, sae naething for’t bit tae get e barra oot an load it up wi a mell, maybe a spare roll o weer, a claa haimmer, a picker, a pinch, a peer man, an an aal seerup tin wi a weer hannle full o staples new an aal, an shove e hale lot tae fitiver park e sortin nott tae be deen in. Seein it wisna jist an iveryday jobbie, ere wis aye a bit o haikin for aa e tools, some in e gig-shed an some in e neep shed, an files for mair serious braaks ye’d maybe hae tae tak e rope pulleys as weel. Ye cd fairly gar e weers twang if ye uset a pulley.

Weers depen on bein conneckit till a strainer at e eyn, tae keep e tinsion. If a weer wis broken ye’d likely hae tae slack it aff at e strainer, pit in a splice, syne tichen’t up again. Nae at ye ay did at, for ye mich be in a hurry an mak a mair temporary job o’t, bit fit’s nae deen richt’s ay tae be deen again in time. E eyns o weers roon e strainer wis ay gey weel stapled in, an ye cwidna jist haal em oot wi e claas o a claa haimmer. Ye cwidna even get em anaith e weer on ilky side o e heid o e staple, for it wis ay half sunk intill e timmer. Sae fit ye hid tae dee wis tae knack in e pintit eyn o e picker an levert back, as aften as no haein tae chap it back for it wis mair’n e strinth o yer fingers wid manage. If e staple wisna aafa aal it wis slide oot, bit it it wis aal an roosty it wid brak in e middle, bit fitiver, ye got e weer lowse. E picker wis a richt handy tool, gey aften made oot o an aal risp, an gin ere wisna aal risps aboot e place ere wis aye plinty aboot e smiddy. Man it’s jist graan tae hear e click o e haimmer heid on e blunt eyn o e picker, an it maks a bit o an echo at comes back at ye fae e idder side o e howe, mixin wi e caa-caa o an antrin craa an e iverlaistin sangs o e laiverocks, or e steery noise o e skirly-wheeters. Ye wis aften jist hyne awa fae aabody, ye cd think yer ain thochts, an ye cd be baith hyne awa in yer heid an ere at e same time deein things wi yer hans. Ere’s naebody can pit a damper on thocht, bit ye canna think e same fin ye’re crivved wi fowk in a hoose, an e fine freedom o ootside wark gies ye mair scowth tae think in yer ain space.

Ere’s e maist infernal lot o science aboot a simple tool. E picker hid mair eeses’n een. It wisna jist for gettin in anaith e heids o hard-driven staples an syne giein em a helpie oot. Ere wis a hole close till e blunt eyn, an if yer weer wis broken at e middle o a linth, ye cd pit e lowse eyns throwe es hole an use’t tae splice twa bits egidder. Min you, if ye hid nae picker wi ye, ye cd aye try e claas o e haimmer bit e eyns wis mair like tae skyte wi ye an it wis jist a ficher. Ye’d niver mak as ticht a job as wi e picker. Ye’d niver think, tae see a picker, at it wis sic a skeely objeck. Fowk at hiv tae dee things wi eir haans hiv tae learn foo tae gar tools wirk as extensions o eir haans as weel as eir heids, an e picker’s jist ae example o fit a bit o thocht cd dee. Bit fin e kinna wark it did ‘s nott nae mair, an e fowk at used it hiv geen, faa’s tae ken fit a picker mith a been for? Maybe it’s a job for museums tae keep a record o sic skills an e tools at geed wi em.

For a richt slack weer, ye vrocht e pulley, bit ere wis aye a bittie o slack atween e pulley itsel an e pint o anchorage on e strainer. Es is faar mair skill cam in. Ye’d tae use e peer man, a kinna iron lever wi a screw or hannle close till ae eyn at ye hid tae twist ir turn tae grip e eyn o e weer fin ye wintit tae tak up at wee bittie o slack. If ye wis skeely enyeuch an made a gweed job o’t, boy e weer wid sing like a fiddle fin ye wis deen an it wid tak a lot o reemishin o e beas’ heids tae pit it oot o reel again.

Bit afore ye tacklet e tichnin, ye’d tae get e posts intae gweed order. Es is faar e mell cam intill its ain. E mell wis jist a hivvy mallet. Ye got e shaft in yer twa nivs, squaart ontill e post, haived e mell abeen yer heid, syne up on yer taes as ye opent yer shooders tae gie’t full pooer an skelp it as flat on e tap o e post as ye cd manage, e dose tae be repeatet as aften as nott. If ye didna land flat, ye’d split e post. It wis a job ye cd richt enjoy gin ye wis swack an prood o yer strinth, bit for a buddie at wis wearin on ir nae aafa weel, it widna haad im lang ir e’d be gey ferfochen.

Ere wis twa wyes o deein. If e post wis jist slack, ye mith jist need a gweed lick tae firm’t up. Bit if ye’d tae pit in a new een, or shift e aal een a bittie, ye’d tae mak an openin first in e grun wi e iron pinch. Ye wirkit it up an doon atween yer hands, rammin’t in an shogglin’t roon an roon at ilky straik, till ye’d got a fine, upricht holie tae sair as a gweed foon for e post. Bit aften e pinch wid cry closh against a steen an at wid fair dirl yer fingers, an it cd be deil an aa in richt hard grun tae get aathing snod an tae yer likin.

Bit ye didna knock e strainers in wi e mell. Ey were ower big for at, for ey were mint tae tak e strain o e weers in twa directions at e nyeuk o a park. Ye’d tae dig a gey gweed hole tae reet em in, an pack em weel aboot wi sma steens an full back in e yird ye’d howkit oot. Syne ye’d tae bishop at as hard’s ye cwid tae pack e grun. Ye cd mak a gweed bishop oot o e broken hannle o an aal mell, stuck inside e middle o e hivvy iron bit oot o e inside o a cairt wheel, syne ye vrocht it up an doon like a steam haimmer till e saft grun wis as firm’s e rock o Gibraltar.

Bit naething in life’s perfect. Skill ir gweed balance coonts bit ye canna control aathing, an dee fit ye like ere wis aye a post ir twa at wid split doon e tap fae e force o e wallop fae e mell, fither it wis a flat een ir no. Files a spear wid flee aff an ye’d maybe be left wi aboot a third or even half o e side o a post awa at e tap, nae jist convenient for chappin staples intill. If it jist split, ere wis nae pint in chappin mair wi e mell and sae ye left it. Es is faar e forkies come intill e story, for as sure’s fate if ere’s a crack in a post ere’ll be a colony o e craiters in’t fin ye come back a month ir twa later as ye gyang roon e palins.

Nae thinkin, ye’d gie e tap o a split post a canny knack, an wi e dird ere’d be jist a richt flood o forkietails, black granfadder eens, broon eens, an puckles o em a peely-wally fite colour, same’s ey’d been new claikit an hidna heen time for e shalls tae grow dark an harden like eir elders an betters. Ey’d come in aa sizes. Files it wisna a crack in e post, bit jist a strip o bark at cam aff (if e post hid been cut fae e side o a branch or trunk), an ere’d be a faimily o forkies left haimless tee, bit e richest lode wis aye in e cracks in e posts.

Aye, forkies are awye. Faar ey come fae, Gweed kens, an faar ey gyang till, Gweed kens tee, though I doot if e’s sair bothert. Maybe they’re jist like fowk; aa kins, here e day an geen e morn, bit aye poppin up again somewye or anither.

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Information about Document 532

Craiters: 08 - E Forkietailies


Text audience

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

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 1994
Word count 1857

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